Additional Support Needs

Campaigning to improve services for children and young people with additional support needs

The SCSC is committed to improving services for children and young people with additional support needs (ASN). We aim to achieve this through campaigning for the increased provision of a wide-range of high-quality, well-resourced and quickly accessible services.

A wide range of factors may lead to a child or young person having a need for additional support, which will help them to get the most out of their pre-school or school education.

Additional support may be required if, for example, they have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, learning difficulties, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, physical or mental health problems, are looked after, or encounter adverse life events such as bereavement or divorce within the family.

The Scottish Government pupil census (PDF) indicates that in 2018, 199,065 pupils in Scotland’s schools (publically funded primary, secondary and special) were identified with ASN. This represents just over a quarter of all pupils (28.7%), of which 59.1% were boys. The number of pupils identified with ASN has increased by 68.7% since 2012 (PDF) (from 118,034 pupils).

Children and young people with ASN have disproportionately poorer educational and employment outcomes than those with no ASN. This has an obvious impact on the individual concerned, society and the economy. They are also disproportionately from lower income families and areas of deprivation.


Early intervention and greater care and support

We are seeking to ensure that children and young people with ASN get the care and support they need, when they need it. To achieve this we are campaigning for the increased provision of a wide range of high-quality, well-resourced and quickly accessible services, improving outcomes for those with ASN.

It is vital that those children and young people who are thought, for whatever reason, to require additional support, have this identified as early as possible and are promptly assessed and provided with the care and support they need. Such early intervention can assist in preventing further difficulties developing later, maximising their life chances and reducing the costs to society and the economy.

Presumption of mainstreaming

The cornerstone of an inclusive approach to education is a presumption of mainstreaming for pupils with ASN, meaning that they are educated in a mainstream school unless exceptional circumstances apply. As a coalition we are fully in a support of a presumption to mainstream those children and young people with ASN. However, we are concerned about the impact of a lack of resources and co-ordinated support when it comes to supporting an increasing number of those with ASN in mainstream schools.

Through a lack of resources many children and young people are ending up poorly supported, which also impacts on fellow pupils and teachers, or are excluded from school altogether. An increase in specialist provision is required to meet the needs of these children and young people, ensuring that ‘inclusion’ is meaningful. While we support a presumption to mainstream those with ASN, there are a large number of children and young people currently in mainstream education whose interests would be most appropriately served by being in a special school or unit.

Well-resourced services will help to address the poorer educational and employment outcomes these children and young people experience, supporting the closing of the educational attainment gap and creating a more equal society.

A ‘lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people

Under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended), education authorities have a statutory requirement to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of children and young people for whose education they are responsible.

However, the combination of an increasing demand on services, set against a background of cuts to public services and delays in identification, assessment and intervention, means that many children and young people with ASN are missing out on the care and support they so vitally need. This is leading to a potential ‘lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people.

We have built up a strong reputation campaigning for an increase in the provision of a wide range of high quality and quickly accessible services for children and young people with ASN.

This includes campaigning to:

  • Increase funding – there must be a greater investment in services that care for and support children and young people with ASN, including an increased provision of specialist teachers and support staff, educational psychologists, mental health professionals and other specialist support services, ensuring that statutory duties are fulfilled.
  • Deliver better recording and reporting of ASN – there must be clearer guidance from the Scottish Government to local authorities to ensure the consistent and meaningful identification and recording of pupils with ASN, given the significant variation between local authorities (PDF) in the number of those identified with ASN, a first step in ensuring that spending is in line with the level of need in their area.
  • Improve identification and support – there must be prompter assessment and support for children and young people who are thought, for whatever reason, to require additional support, and this should be identified as early as possible.
  • Deliver greater support – there must be increased and co-ordinated support for those children and young people with ASN in mainstream education, in accordance with a presumption of mainstreaming, as well as a greater number of special school and unit places to better meet the needs of those requiring this provision.
  • Promote greater collaboration – there must be greater collaboration between public, independent and third sector service providers to deliver the best possible care and support to children and young people with ASN, tailored to their individual needs.
  • Promote greater awareness – there must be a drive to increase awareness of the rights children and young people with ASN and their parents have, as well as looking to deliver a greater public understanding of ASN more generally.
  • Ensure increased training – there must be increased and better training of mainstream teachers and support staff, social workers, health professionals and other practitioners so that they are able to adequately support children and young people with ASN.
  • Promote innovative thinking – there must be the greater promotion and sharing of good practice and innovative thinking in the provision of services for children and young people with ASN.