Call for greater resourcing as spending to support vulnerable children in Scotland is slashed by more than a third

  • Spending cut of £1,934 per pupil from 2012/13 for those identified with additional support needs (ASN) – 33.9 per cent cut over a decade
  • More than doubling in the number of pupils with ASN from 2012
  • Cut of 546 in the number of ASN teachers 

An alliance of leading providers of specialist children’s services, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), has warned of a potential lost generation of children and young people with ASN, such as autism, dyslexia and mental health problems, and called for greater resourcing to support this group.

The call comes as new figures contained in a parliamentary answer to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Jenny Gilruth MSP, reveal that average additional support for learning (ASL) spend per pupil has slumped by over a third (33.9 per cent) over the past decade. This comes against a perfect storm of escalating numbers of pupils with ASN, against the backdrop of cuts in support.

While the SCSC supports a presumption of mainstreaming for pupils with ASN, meaning that they are educated in a mainstream school unless exceptional circumstances, without adequate resourcing there is an obvious impact on those with ASN, fellow pupils and teachers.

The SCSC is calling on the Scottish Government to work with local authorities to increase funding to support the needs of vulnerable children and young people, including greater provision of specialist ASN teachers, educational psychologists, behaviour support staff and classroom assistants.

The figures highlight that average spending per pupil on ASL by local authorities in Scotland (primary, secondary and special education) has fallen from £5,698 in the 2012/13 financial year to £3,764 in 2022/23 (in real terms). This amounts to an overall cut in spending of £1,934 per pupil, representing a 33.9 per cent drop.

This fall is against the backdrop of a 104.8 per cent increase between 2012 and 2022 in the number of pupils identified with ASN, from 118,011 to 241,639, amounting to 123,628 individuals. Those with ASN currently represent more than a third of all pupils (34.2 per cent).

By contrast, between 2012 and 2022, the number of full-time equivalent ASN teachers (publicly funded primary, secondary, special and centrally employed) has fallen from 3,390 to an all-time low of 2,844, a decrease of 546 teachers, representing a cut in numbers of 16.1 per cent.

Against the background of Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis, with its disproportionate impact on those with ASN, this cut in support has created a perfect storm for those with ASN.

A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:

“It is devastating to note cuts in spending supporting those with ASN, and we would urge the Scottish Government and local authorities to increase resourcing to support the greater provision of the likes of specialist teachers, educational psychologists and classroom assistants.

“We are facing a lost generation of children with ASN, and it is vital that they get the care and support they need, when they need it, especially given the impacts of the Covid-19 and cost-of-living crisis and the escalating mental health emergency. This is also key if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap, as we know that those with ASN are disproportionately drawn from poorer neighbourhoods.

“Our schools are also witnessing dramatic increases in classroom disruption, impacting on pupils and teachers alike. This is in part due to increased levels of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties post-lockdown, and we must ensure the necessary resourcing is delivered to address this.

“The Scottish Government and local authorities must work together to provide adequately resourced support across Scotland for those children and young people with ASN, representing some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society. “


Notes to Editors

About the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) is an alliance of leading providers of specialist care and education to vulnerable children and young people, as well as support to their families or carers.

It seeks to improve the lives of these children and young people, and its vision is to make Scotland the best place in the world for them to grow up in.

The SCSC aims to achieve this through campaigning to improve support for these vulnerable individuals. This seeks to ensure that a wide range of high-quality, well-resourced and easily accessible services is provided.  Tailored to individual needs this will help them to achieve their full potential.

Members of the SCSC are:

  • Falkland House School: An independent school based in Fife that specialises in the education and care of boys who require additional support for learning.
  • LOVE Learning: An education and social care charity that uses innovative ways to engage vulnerable individuals in learning and raise their attainment. This includes supporting children and young people through intensive early years programmes, as well as in the classroom and outside the education system.
  • Spark of Genius: An independent organisation offering residential care, education, autism services, post-16 employability programmes and adult services.
  • Young Foundations: An independent organisation specialising in the care of children and young people with a range of complex needs.

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