The Scottish Children's Services Coalition (SCSC) has called on the Scottish Government and local authorities to urgently increase investment in pupils with additional support needs (ASN) if it is to deliver genuine inclusion in schools.
The call comes in the coalition's submission to a Scottish Government consultation on guidance on mainstreaming - that all children and young people be educated in a mainstream school environment, unless exceptional circumstances apply - which closed today (Friday 9th February).
The SCSC, which campaigns to improve services for vulnerable children and young people, noted major concerns over the inclusion of some children and young people with ASN in mainstream education. It cites the poor experience many of these have in such an environment is clear evidence that more needs to be done if genuine inclusion is to be achieved.
In its submission, the SCSC cites figures that since 2012 the number of pupils in mainstream primary and secondary schools with ASN has risen by 47.3 per cent, from 111,058 to 163,594 (24.1 per cent of pupils), while the number of overall staff in schools, encompassing teachers, ASN auxiliaries and behaviour support staff, has dropped by 3 per cent over the same period, from 16,377 to 15,880.
Moreover, average per-pupil spending by local authorities on additional support for learning (local authority primary, secondary and special education), has fallen from £4,276 in 2012/13 to £3,817 in 2015/16, amounting to £459 per pupil and representing an 11% cut.
This combination of 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 classroom support they so vitally need.
The requirement to provide education in a mainstream setting for children and young people with ASN, including physical disabilities, learning difficulties and social, emotional or behavioural problems, has been in legislation since 2002.
The coalition reaffirmed its support of mainstreaming as a central pillar of inclusive education, however emphasised that a severe lack of resources was preventing mainstream schools being able to fully support pupils with ASN. The coalition also highlighted that local authorities must be assisted to increase the number of special school/unit places available, reflecting the rising numbers of children and young people with complex or specific needs. These places may be provided by the local authority or independent sector, on a wider geographic basis.
Kenny Graham, Head of Education at Falkland House School and coalition member, said:
“Many families face an uphill struggle when trying to get additional support for their child in a mainstream environment. We have seen increasing numbers of those being identified with additional support needs, set against the background of reduced numbers of specialist teachers and support staff.
“A presumption of mainstreaming is also challenging in that, especially for children with ADHD, autism, and Tourette’s, many teachers lack the proper training in how to identify these conditions and in how best to support the child.
“Mainstreaming should not simply mean entering the gates of a local school. It should mean inclusion in the aspiration of a mainstream curriculum with all the positive experiences and outcomes that should entail, regardless of where that school is. It should mean inclusion in a school community that supports real development and growth, not education in a segregated class with alternate break times. It should mean good mental and emotional well-being.
“If we are to deliver genuine inclusion then that means providing the necessary resourcing to ensure the needs of all children, whether they have ASN or not, are met in the classroom.”
For more information please contact Sarah Robertson, Policy and Communications Adviser to the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, on 0131 603 8996 or at [email protected]