Concerns raised as a third of pupils identified with additional support needs while statutory support falls

Published on December 14, 2021

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading providers of specialist care and education to vulnerable children and young people, has raised concerns over an increase in the number of pupils identified with additional support needs (ASN), against the backdrop of a lack of support.

It has also voiced similar concerns over a declining number of those with complex needs receiving a co-ordinated support plan (CSP), the only education plans that are legal documents. This is despite a Scottish Government promise there would be no decline in the numbers of those receiving them.

The figures were released today (14th December) in the Scottish Government’s Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland 2021, the annual census of pupils and teachers in publicly funded schools. 

These show that the number of pupils with ASN, such as autism, dyslexia and mental health problems in 2021 has reached a record high of 232,753. Of this total 58.0% are boys. This represents 33.0% of the pupil population, rising from 118,011 in 2012, and is a near doubling (97.2%) in numbers from that year.

An increase in demand is however set against a backdrop of a lack of specialist ASN teachers, support staff and the resources needed to support this.

The SCSC has also raised concerns over a decline in the number of those receiving a CSP. These are statutory education plans prepared by local authorities to identify and ensure the provision of services for children and young people with complex or multiple ASN.

The only education plans that are legal documents, CSPs require services such as education, health and social work to work together to give a child or young person the support they need. This provides some guarantees of entitlement to additional resources and legal redress, placing statutory duties on local authorities to review and ensure the provisions contained within it are being met.

Despite a Scottish Government promise that there would be no reduction in the proportion of pupils receiving them since their introduction in 2004, there has been a significant fall in the number of pupils with CSPs. Declining from 3,448 in 2012 to 1,420 in 2021, this amounts to a drop of 58.9%. This is a reduction from 2.9% to 0.6% of those with ASN.

A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:

“While more children and young people are being identified as having ASN, this is against the increasingly challenging backdrop of a lack of specialist teachers, support staff and the resources needed to support them. This clearly has an impact not only on the individuals concerned but also on their peers and teachers.

“Such support is critical, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic and the damaging impact this will have on many of our children and young people.

“We are also concerned that despite an increase in the numbers of those with ASN we are experiencing a decline in the use of CSPs, which are designed to support those with the most complex needs.

“The Scottish Government and local authorities need to work in collaboration with the private and third sectors to provide the necessary resourcing and support to address the needs of children and young people with ASN. They must also work together to ensure that those who are entitled to a CSP receive one.

“With those with ASN drawn disproportionately from poorer neighbourhoods, if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap they must get the care and support they need, when they need it.”

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