10-year low in specialist support teacher numbers in Scotland

Some 95% of pupils with support needs are in mainstream schools. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Some 95% of pupils with support needs are in mainstream schools. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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The number of teachers employed to provide additional support to pupils in Scotland’s schools has fallen to a ten-year low, figures show.

Scottish Government figures show there were fewer than 3,000 teachers across the country in 2015 with additional support needs as their main subject – a 13 per cent decrease since 2010.

Ninety-five per cent of children with additional support needs are taught in mainstream education.

The figures were published by education secretary John Swinney following a parliamentary question from Tory MSP Miles Briggs.

There were 2,936 teachers with additional support for learning as their main subject across all Scottish schools in 2015, down from 3,363 in 2010.

Between 2010 and 2015, the biggest drops were recorded in the Western Isles (36 per cent); Aberdeen (33 per cent) Edinburgh (26 per cent); West Lothian (25 per cent); and Glasgow (21 per cent).

Mr Briggs said: “It will be of real concern to many parents across Scotland that these numbers have reached a new low. It’s also alarming that there appears to be such a vast difference in provision of additional support for learning teachers across different local authorities.

“Some councils have seen an increase, while others like Edinburgh are noticeably declining. It is difficult to see how the Scottish Government will reduce the attainment gap while these numbers are going down.”

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), a coalition of charities, said thousands of children were failing to receive the support they need.

Stuart Jacob, director of Falkland House School and member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, said: “If we are indeed to close the attainment gap and achieve the Scottish Government’s aim of equal opportunity for all, a welcome aspiration, it is children and young people with additional support needs, who disproportionately come from lower income families and areas of deprivation, who desperately need extra attention.

“I we don’t act we are facing the worrying prospect of a lost generation of young people.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The figures quoted only represent the number of teachers in Scotland’s schools who have additional support for learning as their main subject. In 2015, 95 per cent of children and young people with additional support needs are recorded as learning within a mainstream school and receive support from a wide range of teaching staff across a range of subjects.”