Scotland faces a potential "lost generation" of children and young people with additional support needs (ASN) if cuts in local authority budgets continue.
In its manifesto for the local authority elections the SCSC has called on incoming town hall administrations to put their needs at the heart of future policy commitments.
The manifesto includes a raft of measures, including a plea for increased funding in services dealing with children and young people with ASN, better training for those working in this field, professional independent advocacy for care experienced children and young people, and for an elected councillor to be appointed as ‘mental health champion’.
ASN provision in Scotland is under severe pressure due to a raft of austerity cuts, and the SCSC has warned of a "false economy" in cutting 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.
It has called on incoming council administrations to protect vital services for children and young people with ASN, such as those with dyslexia, autism, mental health problems, or are care experienced, and increase funding.
The manifesto notes that over 170,000 children and young people in Scotland’s publically funded primary, secondary and special schools are classed as having ASN, amounting to just under a quarter (24.9 per cent) of pupils. This represents a 44 per cent increase in the number of those identified with ASN since 2012.
However, since 2012 the number of specialist ASN teachers in local authority primary and secondary schools has fallen by 16 per cent, from 2,146 to 1,799. 1 The number of support staff, such as ASN auxiliaries or care assistants, and behaviour support staff, has fallen by 5 per cent. 2
While the SCSC is fully in support of the presumption of mainstreaming, it has raised concerns that given these cuts vulnerable children and young people may not be getting the care and support they need in the classroom, with an impact not only on them, but on their peers and teachers.
It has called for these cuts in staffing numbers to be reversed, and that there is adequate resourcing provided to support mainstream, if that means a fully inclusive experience, supporting the closure of the educational attainment gap.
Other key recommendations in the manifesto include:
Commenting on the manifesto, Kenny Graham from Falkland House School, a member of the SCSC commented:
“We are delighted to be launching our manifesto for these local authority elections. Councils are facing a difficult financial environment, but they play an absolutely vital role in meeting the additional support needs of children and young people.
“We urge incoming council administrations to put services that impact on vulnerable children and young people at the very heart of their policy commitments and look for them to increase funding for these.
“Failing to do so amounts to a ‘false economy’ because if their needs are not met they often go on to become a costly burden on society and the economy.”
A full copy of the Manifesto can be downloaded here.
1 Scottish Government, Supplementary data for the Teacher Census 2016, Table 2.8 for primary school and 3.9 for secondary school. This is with their man subject recorded as: Learning Support, ASN, Hearing Impairment and Visual Impairment.
2 Scottish Government, Supplementary data for the Teacher Census 2016, Table 2.15 for primary school and 3.17 for secondary school. 2012: Scottish Government, Supplementary data for the Teacher Census 2012, Table 2.15 for primary school and 3.17 for secondary school.
For further information please contact Alex Orr, Policy Adviser to the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, on 0131 603 8996 or [email protected].