A number 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, learning disabilities, learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorder, physical or mental health problems, are looked after, or encounter adverse life events such as bereavement.
The Scottish Government pupil census indicates that in 2020, 226,838 pupils in Scotland’s schools (publicly funded primary, secondary and special) were identified with ASN. This represents just under a third of all pupils (32.3%), of which 58.0% are boys. The number of pupils identified with ASN has nearly doubled (92.2%) since 2012 (from 118,034 pupils).
Children and young people with ASN are disproportionately from lower-income families and areas of deprivation. They also have poorer educational and employment outcomes than those with no ASN.
An increasing number of those with ASN has an obvious impact not just on the individual concerned, but also on the economy and society.
These services include support from teachers (including ASN teachers) and support staff, educational psychologists, mental health professionals and other specialist services.
A ‘lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people
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 against a background of public sector cuts 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 and is set to worsen especially given rising levels of poverty, inequality and the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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 also clearly vital that those who are thought to require additional support, have this identified as early as possible, are promptly assessed and provided with it. Such early intervention can assist in preventing further difficulties developing later, maximising their life chances.
We have built up a strong reputation campaigning for the increased provision of such services to children and young people 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 exceptional circumstances apply. As a coalition we are fully in support of a presumption to mainstream these children and young people.
However, we are concerned that there is a lack of staff, resources and co-ordinated support when it comes to addressing the needs of an increasing number of those with ASN in these schools.
Many children and young people with ASN are therefore being left poorly supported, which also impacts on fellow pupils and teachers, or are excluded from school altogether. An increase in support is required to help them meet their needs, ensuring that inclusion is meaningful.
There are also many children and young people currently in mainstream education whose interests would be better served by being in a special school or special unit attached to a mainstream school.