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Additional Support Needs

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

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

A very 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 and school education.

Additional support may be required if, for example, they have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, learning difficulties, learning disabilities, 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 2016, 184,491 pupils in Scotland’s schools (publically funded primary, secondary and special) were identified with ASN. This represents just under a quarter of all pupils (26.6%), of which 60% 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 Scottish Children’s Services Coalition

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, within the spirit of Getting it Right for Every Child. 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.

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 in 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.

‘Lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people

Under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended), local 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 increase in numbers of ASN teachers and pupil-support staff, educational psychologists, mental health professionals and other specialist support services, ensuring that statutory duties are fulfilled.
  • Improve identification and support – children and young people who are thought, for whatever reason, to require additional support, should have this identified as early as possible and be promptly assessed and supported.
  • Deliver greater support – there must be increased support for those children and young people with ASN in mainstream education, in accordance with the 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 partnership working – there must be greater partnership working 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 public awareness – there must be a drive to promote greater public awareness and understanding of children and young people with ASN.
  • 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.
  • 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 in figures between local authorities in the number of these pupils.
  • Promote innovative thinking – there must be the promotion and sharing of good practice and innovative thinking in the provision of services for children and young people with ASN.