The recently released statistics on Scotland’s schools highlight the fact that over 170,000 pupils in Scotland’s schools have Additional Support Needs (ASN), such as dyslexia, autism and learning disabilities, representing just under a quarter of the pupil population (14th December 2016).
This increase is against the background of a fall in the number of teachers, as well as a decline in the number of specialist additional support for learning teachers in primary and secondary schools, which has dropped by over a quarter since 2010. There has also been an accompanying 7% fall in the number of support staff, such as Additional Support Needs auxiliaries and behaviour support staff over the same period.
While we as a coalition fully support the presumption of mainstreaming, incorporating those with ASN into mainstream education, this is clearly challenging against a background of cuts in support.
New analysis released by the Scottish Parliament indicates that spending on schools has fallen from £6,692 in 2010-11 per pupil to £6,152 – a drop of more than 8 per cent, and local authorities are estimating a cut of somewhere in the region of £350 million in the forthcoming Scottish Government budget.
It is vital that both the Scottish Government and local authorities invest in education, especially in addressing the needs of children and young people with ASN, who will struggle to succeed without proper support.
In addition, local authorities should look to greater collaboration with the independent and third sector to provide such support, both educational and otherwise.
The cost to society in the long term if investment is not increased will far outweigh any potential savings made today, and will hinder any efforts to close the educational attainment gap.
Children and young people with ASN represent some of the most vulnerable in our society and we should give them the care and support they so vitally need.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition:
Tom McGhee, Managing Director, 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
Liz May, National Co-ordinator, Action for Sick Children Scotland