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

Published on May 9, 2022
  • Cut of £874 per pupil since 2012/13 on spending for those identified with ASN
  • ‘Postcode lottery’ of spending between local authorities on ASN
  • Near doubling in the number of pupils with ASN from 2012
  • Cut in the number of ASN teachers

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

The call, which comes as new council administrations are being formed, comes as new figures contained in a parliamentary answer to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP. This reveals that spending supporting those pupils with ASN has slumped dramatically. It comes against a backdrop of the number of pupils with ASN increasing and the number of specialist teachers supporting them dropping to a new low.

The SCSC is calling on incoming town hall administrations to put the needs of vulnerable children and young people at the very heart of policy and funding commitments.

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 £4,276 in the 2012/13 financial year to £3,402 in 2020/21 (in cash terms). This amounts to an overall cut in spending of £874 per pupil, representing a 20.4 per cent drop.

There is a wide variation in spending per pupil by individual councils, ranging from £2,210 in the Scottish Borders to £5,901 in the Shetland Islands. This points to a ‘postcode lottery’ in support across councils (see Notes to Editors for figures by council).

This fall is against the backdrop of a 92.2 per cent increase between 2012 and 2020 in the number of pupils identified with ASN, from 118,011 to 226,838 (PDF), amounting to 108,827 individuals. Those with ASN currently represent just under a third of all pupils (32.3 per cent).

Between 2012 and 2020 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 2,860, a decrease of 529 teachers (PDF), representing a cut in numbers of 15.6 per cent.

Against the background of Covid-19 and 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, provided in an equitable manner across Scotland.

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 as we come out of the current Covid-19 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.

“Given this, it is disappointing to note cuts in spending supporting those with ASN and we would urge Scotland’s newly elected councils to put the needs of vulnerable children and young people at the very heart of policy and funding commitments.

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


Table 4 – Additional support for learning spending per pupil (£, cash terms)

Aberdeen City3,196
Argyll & Bute3,833
City of Edinburgh3,093
Dumfries & Galloway3,226
Dundee City2,274
East Ayrshire4,432
East Dunbartonshire4,500
East Lothian3,865
East Renfrewshire2,785
Glasgow City4,133
Na h-Eileanan Siar5,757
North Ayrshire2,379
North Lanarkshire5,490
Orkney Islands4,540
Perth & Kinross3,023
Scottish Borders2,210
Shetland Islands5,901
South Ayrshire4,868
South Lanarkshire3,505
West Dunbartonshire3,589
West Lothian2,700
All Local Authorities3,402


  1. Local Financial Returns – Education (LFR 01) statistical return provided by local authorities to the Scottish Government.
  2. Pupil Census – 2020 school statistics collected by Scottish Government

Note: Local authorities are asked to provide this data in line with guidance to ensure returns are completed on a consistent basis to allow for a reasonable degree of comparability. However, these figures may be affected by variations in local accounting practices and education strategies. It is important to bear this in mind when making comparisons between local authorities and years.

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