An alliance of leading independent and third sector organisations, 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 (31st March) from the annual Scottish Government pupil census reveal that while the number of ASN teachers has dropped the number of those with ASN has escalated dramatically.
Between 2012 and 2019 the number of full-time equivalent ASN teachers (publically funded primary, secondary, special and centrally employed) has fallen from 3,840 to 3,462 *, a decrease of 378 teachers.
This fall is against the background of an overall increase by 82.9 per cent since 2012 in the number of pupils identified with ASN, from 118,034 to 215,897 in 2019, representing just under a third of all pupils (30.9 per cent).
Recently revealed figures also indicate that average spend per pupil on additional support for learning by local authority (primary, secondary and special education) has fallen from £4,276 in 2012/13 to £3,286 in 2018/19.
Against a background of a per pupil cut in spending and 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.
It 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.
The fall in the number of specialist teachers is set against a background of dramatic increases in the reasons pupils being identified with ASN, such as autism, dyslexia and mental health problems, in Scotland’s schools.
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. “
* This includes tables 2.8 for primary, 3.9 for secondary, 4.8 for special and 5.2 for centrally employed schools. Categories - learning support; ASN - general, behavioural support, learning difficulties, physical disabilities; hearing and visual impairment, English as an additional and second language.