As a coalition of independent and third sector organisations we very much welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement of a consultation on guidance on the presumption of mainstreaming.
Mainstreaming ensures that all children are educated in mainstream schools, unless exceptional circumstances apply.
Our ambition as a nation must be to ensure that all children and young people be able to reach their full potential, including those with additional support needs (ASN).
However, as highlighted in the Scottish Parliament Education and Skills Committee inquiry into additional support for learning, there are major concerns over the inclusion of children and young people with ASN in mainstream education. The poor experience many of these have in such an environment is clear evidence that more needs to be done if genuine inclusion is to be achieved.
This experience is due, in part, to a lack of resources. It should be noted that despite an over 40 cent increase between 2012 and 2016 in the number of pupils identified with ASN in mainstream primary and secondary schools, the number of ASN teachers has fallen by 16 per cent over the same period, to a new low. In addition, the number of ASN auxiliaries or care assistants has declined by 13 per cent and the number of behaviour support staff by 15 per cent.
We very much support mainstreaming as a central pillar of inclusive education. However, if we are to deliver genuine inclusion and to close the educational attainment gap, a welcome ambition held by the Scottish Government, that means providing the necessary resourcing to do this.
With the upcoming Scottish Government budget, there is the clear opportunity for us to do just that and give those children and young people with ASN the best possible start in life.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition:
Tom McGhee, Chairman, Spark of Genius
Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive, Who Cares? Scotland
Sophie Pilgrim, Director, Kindred Scotland
Stuart Jacob, Director, Falkland House School
Niall Kelly, Managing Director, Young Foundations