Children in Scotland now have the most rights in Europe if they need additional help with schooling, Education Secretary John Swinney said.

He spoke out as new legislation extending their rights come into force.

Provisions in the Education (Scotland) Act 2016 mean that from January 10 youngsters aged between 12 and 15 who require additional support in their education will be able to influence decisions about this.

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As part of this, students will be able to ask their school or local council to find out if they need extra help and to have a say in any support plans that are made.

They will also be entitled to have an advocate at meetings, to ensure their views are heard and to be actively involved in resolving disagreements about their support.

John Swinney (Russell Cheyne/PA)John Swinney said children will be given a stronger voice on issues which affect their lives (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Mr Swinney said: “We want Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up, that means ensuring every young person is given an equal chance to fulfil their potential.

“I am already extremely proud of our record on inclusion but the new measures introduced today go even further to ensure that children in Scotland have the most rights in Europe when it comes to accessing the support they need within the education system.

“It is an extremely fitting start to the Year of Young People that children will now be more involved in the decisions that affect their education and be given a stronger voice on issues which affect their lives.”

Councillor Stephen McCabe, the spokesman for children and young people for the local government body Cosla, said: “We are pleased that the Act now gives children from the age of 12 with the capacity to do so, the ability to exercise the same rights as parents, carers and young people 16 and over.

“It is fitting that this change comes at the beginning of the Year of Young People.

“That this will be aided by a service providing advice, information, advocacy and legal representation is key in ensuring children are supported in exploring and expressing their views and needs when it comes to support for their education.”

Advice service Enquire, which works with those who need additional support for learning, also welcomed the changes, with manager Sally Cavers stating: “We are very supportive of the extension of rights for children.

“We know from our work with children and young people how important it is that they feel genuinely involved and listened to by the professionals supporting them, and how much this can influence whether they feel school is a negative or positive experience.”