The Scottish Children's Services Coalition has called for clearer guidance in the way figures on the numbers of those with additional support needs (ASN) are collected.
The call comes as new Scottish Government figures reveal major disparities between local authorities on the number of pupils identified with ASN in primary and secondary schools. This includes the likes of learning difficulties, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder and care experience.
It has also raised concerns that while the Scottish Government intends to review guidance on a presumption of mainstreaming - that those with ASN should be educated in mainstream schools whenever possible - this is extremely challenging given these inconsistent figures do not give a clear picture on the number of those with ASN.
The figures are highlighted in the latest Pupil Census, which indicates that in 2016, 163,594 pupils in publically funded primary and secondary schools were identified with ASN, amounting to just under a quarter (24.1%) of all pupils.1 This represents an increase in the number of pupils identified with ASN of 47% since 2012, and is set against a background of budgetary cuts and reductions in the numbers of ASN teachers and support staff.
There are however major disparities between local authorities in the percentage of pupils identified with ASN (see Notes to Editors for full figures).
Primary schools in Glasgow City reported 25.8% of pupils with ASN in 2016, but in neighbouring North Lanarkshire this figure was 13.3%.
In North Ayrshire while 25.8% of pupils were identified with ASN, in South Ayrshire this was a mere 9% and in Aberdeenshire while it was 39%, in Aberdeen City the figure was 19.7%.
(22.3% for all local authority primary schools).
While secondary schools in Glasgow City reported 37.6% of pupils with ASN, in North Lanarkshire this was 16.2%. In North Ayrshire 28.8% of pupils were identified with ASN, compared with 14.9% in South Ayrshire.
In Aberdeenshire 35.6% of pupils were identified with ASN, while in Aberdeen City the figure was 23.4%.
(26.8% for all local authority secondary pupils).
The coalition has called on the Scottish Government to provide clearer guidance to local authorities on the consistent and meaningful identification and recording of children and young people with ASN. Better quality and more reliable information enables comparisons to be made between local authorities on resourcing, identifying key trends in ASN and will assist in the effective provision of services.
This data will help to ensure that children and young people with ASN are equitably supported across Scotland, uphold the presumption of mainstreaming and ensure that progress is being made with attainment for those who face the greatest challenges in terms of their learning.
Without a consistent and aligned method of recording such critical statistics it is also difficult to ascertain if the numbers of categories of those with ASN is increasing, decreasing or staying the same. These trends will clearly has an impact on the resourcing committed to dealing with this vulnerable group and ensuring that it is targeted in the most effective manner.
A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:
“As a coalition we find it worrying at these major disparities which indicate, for example, that as a percentage of the pupil population nearly twice as many children and young people in Glasgow have ASN compared with North Lanarkshire.
“Given this inconsistency we are calling for clearer and comprehensive guidance from the Scottish Government to local authorities in identifying and recording those with ASN. This greater clarity will enable comparisons to be made between local authorities on resourcing, identify trends in ASN and ensure the delivery of effective and equitable support to children and young people with ASN across Scotland.
“While we are in full support of the presumption of mainstreaming and the Scottish Government review of the guidance associated with this, it is vital that we are fully aware of the scale of the challenge and iron out the inconsistencies in numbers between local authorities.
“The Scottish Government must commit to working more closely with local authorities to tackle this and develop a universal method to ensure that better information is recorded so that accurate numbers can be reported. Only then will we truly be able to provide the best support for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people.”
1 Table 1.5.
For further information please contact Alex Orr, Policy Adviser to the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, on 0131 603 8996 or [email protected].
Notes to Editors
Scottish Government, Pupil Census 2016 supplementary data, Table 6.10 for primary school pupils and 7.5 for secondary school pupils, 13th December 2016. Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School-Education/dspupcensus/dspupcensus16 (Accessed 14th December 2016).
|Table 6.10: Primary school pupils with additional support needs (ASN), by local authority, 2016|
|% pupils ASN|
|Argyll & Bute||17.2|
|Dumfries & Galloway||29.5|
|Na h-Eileanan Siar||29.3|
|Perth & Kinross||31.5|
|All local authorities||22.3|
|Table 7.5: Secondary school pupils with additional support needs (ASN), by local authority, 2016|
|% pupils ASN|
|Argyll & Bute||26.3|
|Dumfries & Galloway||30.3|
|Na h-Eileanan Siar||40.3|
|Perth & Kinross||33.1|
|All local authorities||26.8|