Additional support for schoolchildren in need is ‘patchy’

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MORE than a quarter of children in some parts of Scotland require additional support during their schooling, according to a new report.

The study for the Scottish Parliament’s education committee found the biggest group in need of additional support – more than 20,000 children across the country – were those with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

But it also noted there are huge disparities in the numbers of children needing additional support in different areas of the country, with one unnamed council reporting a figure of 28 per cent and another just 7 per cent.

The National Parent Forum Scotland, which took part in yesterday’s committee meeting, said it was worried that “patchy” reporting across the country meant that some children with additional needs were being missed.

As of 2010, around 15 per cent of pupils nationwide were recorded as having additional support needs, ranging from a physical disability to conditions such as autism and dyslexia.

However, the biggest group requiring additional support were those with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, which accounted for 20,430 pupils.

The number of children identified as having additional needs and requiring support varies dramatically between councils. Tina Woolnough, a spokeswoman for the National Parent Forum Scotland, said: “This is one of our key concerns, this discrepancy. Our view is that there is still a patchy diagnosis and that would explain why some severe literacy difficulties are not being picked up until high school.

“Broadly, I think the report and what it shows should see local authorities going back and looking at the figures to see where the discrepancies are coming from.

“Even within some authorities you can get one school that has all the national averages for dyslexia etc and another that doesn’t have anything like that. If there’s any risk of a failure to diagnose, then that’s where efforts should be targeted. Parents need trust that all schools and all classes are doing their best to support those with additional needs.”

The committee also heard how far fewer children than expected were receiving Co-ordinated Support Plans (CSPs).

It had been expected that between 11,700 and 13,7000 children nationwide would receive such support, however only 3,617 have them.

Linda Whitmore, a development officer at disability charity Enable Scotland, said schools were failing to identify those children most in need of help.

She said: “I would not want to put it all on teachers, but the system is failing children. The vast majority of teachers want to do the right thing by the children in their classrooms – nobody wants to see children failing, but teachers are under so much pressure and don’t feel confident to meet the needs of children with additional support needs.

“There are a lot of children not getting the support they need. We’ve got 32 local authorities and 32 ways of staging intervention. That’s going to have a huge disparity between the number of CSPs from one to another.”