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 (SEBD), learning difficulties, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 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 indicates that in 2017, 183,491 pupils in Scotland’s schools (publically funded primary, secondary and special) were identified with ASN. This represents just over a quarter of all pupils (26.6%), of which 59.9% were boys. The number of pupils identified with ASN has increased by 55.5% since 2012.
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.
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 they are assessed as requiring specialist provision. A presumption of mainstreaming is something we as a coalition fully support, although we are concerned about the impact of a lack of resources and coordinated support when it comes to supporting an increasing number of those with ASN in mainstream schools. This includes a reduction in the number of ASN teachers, pupil-support staff, educational psychologists and other specialist support services.
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 mainstreaming 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.
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.
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.