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Coalition raises concerns as new figures highlight slump in support for vulnerable children

  • Near doubling in the number of pupils with additional support needs since 2012
  • Decline in the number of specialist ASN teachers by 578 since 2012
  • 500 per cent increase in pupils with mental health problem

An alliance of leading providers of children’s services, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), has called for greater resourcing to support children and young people with additional support needs (ASN), both during and after the Covid-19 crisis.

The call comes as new figures out today (23rd March 2021) from the annual Scottish Government pupil census, reveal that while the number of specialist ASN teachers has slumped to a record low, the number of those pupils with ASN has escalated to a new high.

Between 2012 and 2020 the number of full-time equivalent ASN teachers (publicly funded primary, secondary, special and centrally employed) has fallen from 3,389 to 2,811, a decrease of 578 teachers (17 per cent).

This fall is against the background of an overall increase by 92.2 per cent since 2012 in the number of pupils identified with ASN, from 118,034 to 226,838 in 2020, representing just under a third of all pupils (32.3 per cent).

The number of those with autism spectrum disorder has increased by over 150 per cent (from 8,650 to 21,820) between 2012 and 2020*; those with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties by over 125 per cent (from 23,485 to 52,921), and those with mental health problems by 500 per cent (from 1,254 to 7,524).

Against a background of spending cuts and cuts in specialist support, the SCSC has called for greater resourcing from both the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure that those with ASN in Scotland’s schools, who disproportionately come from lower income families and areas of deprivation, are getting the care and support that they need. 

The coalition has also raised concerns about the effectiveness of a presumption of mainstreaming, meaning that all pupils are educated in a mainstream educational environment unless exceptional circumstances apply.

A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:

“It is vital that those with ASN get the care and support they need, especially during and as we come out of the current Covid-19 crisis. This is also key if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap as we know that those with ASN disproportionately come from lower income families and areas of deprivation. Such a situation is clearly challenging in an environment of austerity and evidence of cuts in spending per pupil with ASN and in the number of specialist teachers supporting this group.

“While we also support the presumption of mainstreaming, which means that all children and young people are educated in a mainstream educational environment unless exceptional circumstances apply, it is clearly difficult to see how this is functioning properly for all those with ASN given this fall in specialist support and increase in the number of those identified with conditions such as autism and mental health problems.

“The Scottish Government and local authorities need to work together to provide the necessary resourcing to address the needs of those children and young people with ASN, who represent some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society. “

*Table 1.8

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The SCSC is an alliance of leading providers of education, care and support to vulnerable children, young people and their families.