Latest News

The number of pupils identified with autism, dyslexia and other conditions has increased dramatically, reinforcing call for greater support

Figures produced by the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) has highlighted dramatic increases in the reasons pupils are being identified with additional support needs (ASN) in Scotland’s schools.

The figures, from the annual Scottish Government Pupil Census, indicates that between 2012 and 2016 1 the number of pupils identified with autism spectrum disorder in publically funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased by 55 per cent, those with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties by 53 per cent, those in care by 44 per cent, those with physical mental health problems by 60 per cent and those with mental health problems by 126 per cent (pupils may have more than one reason for additional support) (see Notes to Editors for full details).

This is against the background of an overall increase by 44 per cent since 2012 in the number of pupils with ASN, from 118,034 to 170,329 in 2016, and represents just under a quarter of all pupils (24.9 per cent).

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.

The alliance of leading independent and third sector providers of services to children and young people has repeated its call for greater resourcing by local authorities and the Scottish Government to support those with ASN, who disproportionately come from lower income families and areas of deprivation.

It has called for use to be made of the recently announced Scottish Government’s Pupil Equity Funding of £120 million, which has the aim of transforming the lives of disadvantaged children, along with the £50 million Attainment Scotland Fund, to be used to target those with ASN.

This increase in those with ASN is set against a background of a decrease in support available to those with ASN, with the number of ASN teachers decreasing from 3,249 to 2,896 between 2012 and 2016, a fall of  11 per cent2 

The number of specialist support staff in schools, such as ASN auxiliaries and support staff has also decreased by 8 per cent from 23,734 to 21,935 over the same period. 3

A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:

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

“Greater clarity in these figures allows resourcing to be targeted in a more appropriate manner.

“However, what is key is that we provide those requiring it with the care and support that they need, if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap. This is clearly difficult in an environment of austerity and budget cuts, with evidence of cuts in the number of ASN teachers and support staff.

“We would urge head-teachers to use the Pupil Equity Funding, at least in part, to address the key requirements of those pupils with ASN. In addition, as local authorities set their budgets they need to ensure that they are addressing the needs of those children and young people with ASN, who represent some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”


1 Table 1.8

S5W-05579. This includes teachers in publically funded primary, secondary, special schools, and centrally employed.  This is with their man subject recorded as: Learning Support, ASN, Hearing Impairment and Visual Impairment.

S5W-05564. This includes support staff in publically funded primary, secondary, special schools, and centrally employed.



Notes to Editors

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

20162012% change on 2012
Pupils for whom reason for support is reported   170,192117,755
Learning disability     14,60815,979– 8.60
Dyslexia     18,42813,497+36.50
Other specific learning difficulty (e.g. numeric)     19,65610,858+81.0
Other moderate learning difficulty     25,63417,834+43.7
Visual impairment        4,1753,028+37.9
Hearing impairment        2,9642,253+31.6
Deaf blind              5147+8.5
Physical or motor impairment        7,8426,530+20.1
Language or speech disorder     15,83811,367+39.3
Autistic spectrum disorder     13,4238,650+55.2
Social, emotional and behavioural difficulty     36,03023,485+53.4
Physical health problem     10,4956,562+59.9
Mental health problem        2,8361,254+126.2
Interrupted learning        3,1041,731+79.3
English as an additional language     26,92115,148+77.7
Looked after        8,1075,630+44.0
More able pupil        3,2682,408+35.7
Communication Support Needs        5,9591,896+214.3
Young Carer        2,044441+363.5
Bereavement        1,728650+165.8
Substance Misuse           319170+87.6
Family Issues     11,9663,636+230.0
Risk of Exclusion        1,065692+53.9
Other     15,17111,838+28.2

About the Author

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