Call for greater resourcing as spending to support vulnerable children is slashed

  • Spending cut of £1,870 per pupil from 2012/13 for those identified with additional support needs (ASN)
  • Postcode lottery of spending between local authorities for those with ASN
  • Near doubling in the number of pupils with ASN from 2012
  • Cut of 500 in the number of ASN teachers 

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

The call comes as new figures contained in a parliamentary answer to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Jenny Gilruth MSP. This reveals that spending supporting those pupils with ASN has slumped by over a third. It comes against a backdrop of the number of pupils with ASN increasing dramatically and the number of specialist teachers supporting them dropping to a new low.

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 increase funding to support the needs of vulnerable children and young people, including greater provision of specialist ASN teachers, educational psychologists and classroom assistants.

The figures highlight that average spending per pupil on additional support for learning by councils in Scotland (primary, secondary and special education) has fallen from £5,381 in the 2012/13 financial year to £3,511 in 2021/22 (in real terms). This amounts to an overall cut in spending of £1,870 per pupil, representing a 34.8 per cent drop.

There is a wide variation in spending on pupils who need additional support, ranging from £2,278 per pupil in the Scottish Borders to £6,887 in the Shetland Islands, highlighting a postcode lottery in spending across local authorities. (see Notes to Editors for full details).

This fall is against the backdrop of a near doubling (97.2 per cent increase) between 2012 and 2021 in the number of pupils identified with ASN, from 118,011 to 232,753, amounting to 114,742 individuals. Those with ASN currently represent around a third of all pupils (33.0 per cent).

Between 2012 and 2021 the number of full-time equivalent ASN teachers (publicly funded primary, secondary, special and centrally employed) has fallen from 3,389 to an all-time low of 2,886, a decrease of 503 teachers, representing a cut in numbers of 14.8 per cent.

Against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis, with its disproportionate impact on those with ASN, the SCSC has called for greater resourcing from both the Scottish Government and councils to ensure that those with ASN receive the care and support they need.

A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:

“It is vital that those with ASN get the care and support they need, when they need it, especially given the impacts of the Covid-19 and cost-of-living crisis. 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.

“We are in a mental health emergency and have also witnessed 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.

“Given this, it is disappointing to note cuts in spending supporting those with ASN and we would urge the Scottish Government to adequately resource the provision of the likes of specialist teachers, educational psychologists and classroom assistants.

“Councils and the Scottish Government 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. “


Table 4 – ASL spending per pupil (£, cash terms)

Aberdeen City3,149
Argyll and Bute3,722
City of Edinburgh3,278
Dumfries and Galloway3,340
Dundee City2,391
East Ayrshire4,368
East Dunbartonshire4,351
East Lothian3,708
East Renfrewshire2,964
Glasgow City4,635
Na h-Eileanan Siar5,676
North Ayrshire2,147
North Lanarkshire5,571
Orkney Islands4,543
Perth and Kinross3,105
Scottish Borders2,278
Shetland Islands6,887
South Ayrshire4,881
South Lanarkshire3,722
West Dunbartonshire3,479
West Lothian2,887
All Local Authorities3,511


  1. Local Financial Returns – Education (LFR 01) statistical return provided by local authorities to the Scottish Government: Local government finance statistics - (
  2. Pupil Census – published annually - for further details go to: Pupil census: supplementary statistics - (

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