Scottish Government warned it risks creating a 'lost generation' as spending on ASN pupils falls by a third

Investment per pupil drops amid huge rise in the number with additional needs

The Scottish Government is facing fresh demands to provide greater support to a “lost generation” of youngsters with additional support needs (ASN) after new figures showed real terms spending per pupil has fallen by a third in a decade.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth insisted the amount of money invested in additional support for learning reached the “highest level on record” in 2022/23, at £926million.

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However, the number of pupils with ASN has almost doubled in the last 10 years, from 131,593 in 2013, or 19.5 per cent of pupils, to 259,036 pupils last year, or 36.7 per cent of the entire school roll in Scotland.

Spending per ASN pupil has fallen by a thirdSpending per ASN pupil has fallen by a third
Spending per ASN pupil has fallen by a third

It has meant that real terms spending per pupil has fallen from £5,698 in 2012/13, to £3,764 last year, a drop of almost 34 per cent.

There are a range of local differences as well, however, with North Lanarkshire spending as much as £7,087 per pupil, compared to £2,369 in the Scottish Borders.

The figures have been revealed by Ms Gilruth in response to a parliamentary question from Conservative MSP Miles Briggs.

They were highlighted by the the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), which is an alliance of charities, schools and care providers.

A spokesperson for the SCSC said: “It is devastating to note cuts in spending supporting those with ASN, and we would urge the Scottish Government to adequately resource the provision of the likes of specialist teachers, educational psychologists and classroom assistants.

“We are facing a lost generation of children with ASN, and it is vital that they get the care and support they need, when they need it, especially given the impacts of the Covid-19 and cost-of-living crisis.”

He added: “The Scottish Government and local authorities must work together to provide adequately resourced support across Scotland for those children and young people with ASN, representing some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.”

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The SCSC previously highlighted how between 2013 and 2023 the number of ASN teachers dropped from 3,290 to 2,898, a decrease of 392.

However, statistics also show the number of pupil support assistants has been rising in recent years from 13,803 in 2018, to 17,330 last year.

As part of an ongoing inquiry by Holyrood’s education committee, local authorities have warned of the "increasingly challenging” balancing act they face trying to support a soaring number of ASN pupils, including a rise in those with more complex needs, amid an “extreme” squeeze on spending.

Edinburgh City Council said 43 per cent of primary pupils and 50 per cent of secondary pupils in the area are now recorded as having an ASN.

It previously said the additional needs predominantly fall into three categories, the first being pupils who have English as an additional language, the second those with moderate learning difficulties, and the third being social and emotional behavioural needs.

Rising numbers across Scotland have been put down to better identification and recording, as well as worsening poverty and poor mental health, including in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Spending on additional support for learning reached a record high of £926 million in 2022/23.

"The latest statistics also show that our continued investment of £15 million per year, has supported the increase of FTE pupil support staff by 725 (4.4 per cent), bringing the total number of support staff in Scotland in 2023 to 17,330 the highest recorded level.

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"We have also continued to invest £11 million to directly support pupils with complex additional support needs.

“We are working with partners to enhance neurodevelopmental support before and after autism diagnosis, including prioritising investment, and recognise that long waits are unacceptable.

“The National Neurodevelopmental Specification for Children and Young People makes clear that support should be put in place to meet the child or young person’s requirements when they need it, rather than be dependent on a formal diagnosis.”



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