The coalition has warned that Scotland faces a ‘lost generation’ of children and young people with Additional Support Needs (ASN) if cuts in public services continue, making it extremely challenging for the Scottish Government to close the educational attainment gap.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) has written to the Scottish Government and Scotland’s 32 Councils, after the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, calling on them to act with urgency, protect vital services and increase funding for children and young people with ASN, such as those with dyslexia and autism. These include education, social care and early years’ services.
It has also urged greater public service reform against this background, maximising limited financial resources in order to deliver the best for Scotland’s most vulnerable young people. This includes the public sector working in greater partnership with independent and third sector service providers to address the major challenge posed by public sector cuts.
Since 2011/12 there has been a reduction in council spending of 11 per cent, and this trend is set to continue against the background of an increasing numbers of those with ASN and a continuing increase in demand on services.
The coalition has warned of a ‘false economy’ in looking to cut services to these children and young people, who if their needs are not met often go on to become a costly burden on society and the economy.
In 2015 for Scotland as a whole, in publically funded primary, secondary and special schools, 22.5 per cent of pupils were recorded as having ASN. The number of pupils with ASN has increased by more than 16 per cent since 2013, with these pupils disproportionally coming from lower income households and areas of deprivation. The number of looked after children has also risen by a staggering 36 per cent since 2000, with a resulting pressure on services.
These increases are set against a background of cuts in services. As an example, the number of additional support for learning teachers (primary, secondary, special schools and centrally employed) has fallen by 13 per cent between 2010 and 2015, from 3,363 to 2,936, a new low.
Analysis also shows that the number of support staff in schools, such as ASN auxiliaries and behaviour support staff, dropped by over 9 per cent between 2010 and 2015, from 19,332 to 17,498.
In a time of budgetary constraints, the coalition has also called for this to act as a catalyst for public sector reform, encouraging greater partnership working with independent and third sector service providers, providing appropriate support to the child or young person concerned and delivering the best possible outcomes.
As an example, due to an increasing complexity of need and the impact this is having on special schools, many children and young people with ASN, who require specialist teaching, are placed in mainstream education, with an impact not only on them but on other pupils and often under-resourced staff.
The coalition is urging councils to work closely with special schools, both those under their control and those that are independent, to increase provision and put in place the best plan of action for each individual pupil.
Stuart Jacob, Director of Falkland House School, an SCSC member, commented:
“Public sector cuts have already affected vulnerable children and families in Scotland, and against a background of welfare reform any further cuts will have a cumulative impact.
“The cost to society of these cuts in the long term will far outweigh any potential savings made today, and will hinder any efforts to close the educational attainment gap.
“This is why as a coalition we have written to the Scottish Government and all Scotland’s councils, urging them to protect and increase investment in services, or face the prospect of a lost generation of vulnerable children and young people.
“By working closely in partnership with the independent and third sectors, Councils can deliver the most appropriate care and support to vulnerable children and young people, resulting in the best possible outcome for them.”