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Concerns raised over support to escalating number of children needing additional support

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), as new figures reveal that the number of specialist teachers supporting those with ASN has slumped to a new low as the number of those with ASN has escalated dramatically.

The campaign group 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 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, n Scotland’s schools.

The figures, from the annual Scottish Government pupil census, indicate that between 2012 and 2017 the number of specialist teachers supporting those with ASN (publically funded primary, secondary, special and centrally employed) has decreased from 3,248 to 2,733, a decline of 15.9 per cent, representing a new low. 1

This fall is against the background of an overall increase by 55.5 per cent since 2012 in the number of pupils identified with ASN, from 118,034 in 2012 to 183,491 in 2017, representing just over a quarter of all pupils (26.6 per cent).

The reasons for support for pupils with ASN has increased dramatically. For example, the number of pupils identified with autism spectrum disorder in publically funded primary, secondary and special schools since 2012 has increased by over 73 per cent, those with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties by over 68 per cent, those in care by 48 per cent, those with physical health problems by over 77 per cent and those with mental health problems by over 165 per cent (pupils may have more than one reason for additional support) (see table at end of the press release for full details). 2

The increase is in part due to increased recognition and diagnosis of these conditions, as well as continued improvements in recording. Greater clarity in these figures means that support and funding can be more targeted, hopefully more appropriate to the needs of the child or young person concerned.

Given this fall in support for those with ASN against an increasing number of those requiring additional support, the SCSC has raised concerns over the effectiveness of presumption of mainstreaming, that all children and young people be educated in a mainstream environment, unless exceptional circumstances apply.

Stephen McGhee from coalition member Spark of Genius, an education and residential provider, commented:

“It is clearly positive to see that we are become increasingly good at identifying and recording those with ASN, such as autism, dyslexia, mental health problems and learning difficulties.

“Children and young people with ASN represent some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised members of our society. They have poorer educational outcomes, are more likely to be permanently or temporarily excluded, and are less likely to go onto positive destinations when compared with those with no ASN. This impacts not only on the individual concerned, but also has a resulting cost to both the economy and society.

“It is vital that in order to prevent this those with ASN get the care and support they need, which is also key if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap. This is clearly challenging in an environment of austerity and budget cuts, with evidence of cuts in the number of ASN teachers.

“While we also support the presumption of mainstreaming, that all children and young people be 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. “


1 Scottish Government, Teacher Census 2017 supplementary data, 2nd March 2018, table 2.8 for primary school teachers, 3.9 for secondary school teachers, 4.8 for special school teachers and 5.2 for centrally employed teachers. Available at:  http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School-Education/teachcenssuppdata/TeaSup2017. 2012: Teacher Census 2012 supplementary data, 14th January 2016, tables as above. Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School-Education/Summarystatsforschools/teachcensus2012, (accessed 12th March 2018). This is with their man subject recorded as: learning support, ASN – general, behavioural support, learning difficulties, physical disabilities – hearing impairment and visual impairment.

Scottish Government, Pupil Census 2017 supplementary data, 2nd March 2018, table 1.8. Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School-Education/dspupcensus/dspupcensus17 (accessed 6th March 2018). 2012: Pupil census 2012 supplementary data, 17th May 2017, table 1.8. Available at:  http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/School-Education/dspupcensus/pupcensus2012, (accessed 17th May 2017). Pupils with more than one reason for support appear multiple times in tables.


For further information please contact Alex Orr, Policy Adviser to the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, on 0131 603 8996 or contact@thescsc.org.uk.

Reasons for support for pupils with ASN (pupils may have more than one reason for additional support):

20172012% change on 2012
Pupils for whom reason for support is reported   183,257117,75555.6
Learning disability     14,20015,979– 11.1
Dyslexia     19,87713,497+47.3
Other specific learning difficulty (e.g. numeric)     21,86810,858+101.4
Other moderate learning difficulty     27,92217,834+56.6
Visual impairment       4,3313,028+43.0
Hearing impairment       3,0972,253+37.5
Deaf blind             5647+19.1
Physical or motor impairment       8,0586,530+23.4
Language or speech disorder     16,65411,367+46.5
Autistic spectrum disorder     14,9738,650+73.1
Social, emotional and behavioural difficulty     39,64223,485+68.8
Physical health problem     11,6276,562+77.2
Mental health problem       3,3301,254+165.6
Interrupted learning       3,5091,731+102.7
English as an additional language     30,13515,148+98.9
Looked after       8,3355,630+48.0
More able pupil       3,2742,408+35.7
Communication Support Needs       6,7011,896+253.4
Young Carer       2,500441+466.9
Bereavement       2,045650+214.6
Substance Misuse           360170+111.8
Family Issues     13,9733,636+284.3
Risk of Exclusion       1,139692+64.6
Other     15,95911,838+34.8



About the Author

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