CHILDREN with special needs are being let down by cuts being made to the numbers of specialist professionals there to help them, a major report has found.
• Parents struggle to find support for their children
• Concerns raised over age of teachers
• Scottish Government to accept 16 of the 21 recommendations
A review of educational provision carried out on behalf of the Scottish Government raised concerns about falling numbers of specially trained teachers, educational psychologists, classroom assistants and even the number of experienced paediatricians with disability training.
Chaired by Peter Doran, the former chief executive of an educational trust providing care for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, the review said many parents struggled to get help for their child due to a series of “bureaucratic complexities”.
Published today, it said there was a “great deal of concern” about the continued availability and affordability of professional training courses affecting teachers and educational psychologists.
Concerns were also raised that the number of experienced paediatricians with disability training is declining, while the number of classroom assistants is under threat due to council cutbacks.
The report highlighted a study by Edinburgh University which showed that nearly 60 per cent of teachers specialising in visual impairment are aged 45 and over while 68 per cent of those specialising in hearing impairment are over 45.
It said in one case a primary school child who had gone blind over the summer holidays “wasted a year of vital learning in literacy skills” because his support teacher needed to learn Braille alongside him.
Commenting on the review, Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said: “I commend the Doran Report for getting to the heart of the needs of children with complex additional support needs and of their families. While Peter Doran highlights very good practice, he does not shy away from focusing on where action must be taken if the current unacceptable shortfalls in service provision are to be addressed.
“Children in Scotland are pleased to hear the Scottish Government will be accepting the majority of the recommedations. We hope for a swift move to a national approach for commissioning specialist services and delivery by the outlined timescale.”
Alasdair Allan, the minister for learning, said the Scottish Government would accept 16 of the 21 recommendations of the review in full and a further three in part. The remaining two were for local authorities to consider, he said.
He said: “We are fully committed to supporting the 98,000 children and young people with additional support needs in Scotland, and providing them with the best opportunities to fulfil their potential. To match this commitment I can confirm today that we are maintaining over £10 million per year of funding to the additional support needs sector for the lifetime of the current spending review.
“We will now work to reform services, to deliver more services in local communities closer to where people need them and in partnership with the sector, local authorities, parents and pupils. We are clear that, for some, their needs will be better met by specialist services. This will continue. Detail of the process of reform is outlined in our long term plan for Additional Support for Learning which I am also pleased to announce today.”
Councillor Douglas Chapman, education spokesman for council umbrella organisation Cosla, added: “The recommendations will have far reaching implications for all partners and the grant-aided school sector in particular, but COSLA believes that the direction of travel is the correct one. In particular we welcome the acknowledgement that we need to work together to identify the national services and resources that Scotland needs for the future.
“The report is not without its challenges to local government and it offers a fair amount of criticism. This is an independent report and I do not believe that in supporting its general thrust and sense of direction, that this necessarily accepts every point or comment it makes.
“Local authorities do a very difficult job and take decisions daily that balance the needs of individuals with the requirements of communities. There is certainly no sense from the report that the commitment of local government staff to improving the lives of children and their families is anything less than absolute as shown by the examples of good practice featured in the report from councils.”