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).
Set against a backdrop of budgetary cuts and an ongoing lack of support, it has called for increased resourcing to address this growing need. The SCSC has also voiced 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 that there would be no decline in the numbers of those receiving them.
The figures were released today (13th December) in the Scottish Government’s 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 2022 has reached a record high of 241,639. This represents 34.2% of the pupil population, rising from 118,011 in 2012*. This represents a more than doubling (104.8%) in numbers from that year.
An increase in demand is however set against a background of spending cuts and a lack of specialist ASN teachers, support staff and the resources needed to support these children and young people. This is exacerbated by the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 lockdowns and the cost-of-living crisis, which have had a disruptive impact on many of those with ASN, who disproportionately come from the poorest backgrounds. There has also been an increase in those experiencing mental health problems.
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 legally enforceable 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 a CSP. Declining from 3,448 in 2012 to 1,401 in 2022, this amounts to a drop of 59.4% and is a reduction from 2.9% to 0.6% of those with ASN.
The coalition has called for an expansion in access to CSPs, with the Scottish Government, local authorities, health and other relevant agencies collaborating more effectively to ensure that those requiring such a legal plan receive one.
This needs to be supported by the necessary resourcing and increased awareness and understanding of CSPs by families or carers and professionals.
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.
“Such support is critical, especially post the Covid-19 pandemic and the damaging impact this has had on many of our children and young people, exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, all of which is hitting the poorest hardest.
“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 legally enforceable and designed to support those with the most complex needs.
“The Scottish Government, local authorities, health and other agencies 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.”
*Scottish Government, Pupil census 2021 supplementary statistics, 15th March 2022, table 1.5. Available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/pupil-census-supplementary-statistics/
Notes to Editors
About the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) is an alliance of leading providers of specialist care and education to vulnerable children and young people, as well as support to their families or carers.
It seeks to improve the lives of these children and young people, and its vision is to make Scotland the best place in the world for them to grow up in.
The SCSC aims to achieve this through campaigning to improve support for these vulnerable individuals. This seeks to ensure that a wide range of high-quality, well-resourced and easily accessible services is provided. Tailored to individual needs this will help them to achieve their full potential.
Members of the SCSC are:
Further information about the SCSC can be found at www.thescsc.org.uk.