CHILDREN with special needs are being let down by cuts being made to the number of education experts available to help them, a major report has found.
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 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 found many parents struggled to get help for their child due to a series of “bureaucratic complexities”.
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 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.
Jackie Brock, chief executive of the agency Children in Scotland, said: “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. We hope for a swift move to a national approach for commissioning specialist services and delivery by the outlined timescale.”
The charity Enable Scotland said the report highlighted the need for mandatory training of all teachers in additional support needs.
Alasdair Allan, the minister for learning, said the Scottish Government would accept the majority of the recommendations of the review.
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 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.”
REPORT’S KEY PROPOSALS
• Ensure that funding is provided to universities and other agencies to maintain research and development in the education of children with additional support needs.
• Produce a comprehensive map of provision throughout Scotland for children who
are in need of additional support.
• Ensure there is an effective system for the national collection of data in relation to children and young people who have complex additional support needs.
• Take action to make sure all authorities are held to account for implementing national policies and legislation.
• Review of the overall level of and distribution of funding provided to non-local authority services
working directly with children and young people with complex additional support needs.