Council budget cuts will hit the most vulnerable pupils in Scotland the hardest

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WE share the concerns of many local authorities over budget cuts, and have written to them previously strongly urging them not to put our vulnerable children at real risk when it comes to implementing these (24 February).

The task of assessing the fall-out from the Scottish Government’s budget and the decision to cut revenues by £350 million in the forthcoming financial year is clearly a challenging one. And we are already witnessing cuts in those dealing with those with additional support needs (ASN), such as specialist teachers and pupils support assistants in schools, social workers and educational psychologists.

It should however be highlighted that budget cuts will have the biggest and most detrimental effect on the quality of support provided to children with ASN, who require specialist teaching and resources.

The most recent government figures released indicate that 22.5 per cent of pupils in Scottish schools are recorded as having ASN. These children may have a condition which proves to be a barrier to learning such as autism, learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, long term-health conditions, those who need medicines or healthcare procedures administered at school and those with care experience.

We are now facing a desperate situation where we have high numbers of children in schools identified as having ASN but with the potential for vital resources to be cut further. If we are genuinely to deliver social justice and tackle inequality, closing the educational attainment gap, we must ensure that this group is adequately supported and resourcing to them is protected.

The costs of failing to adequately support children and young people with ASN far outweighs any savings made from budget cuts. These children are already at a disadvantage and are less likely to go onto positive destinations, such as further and higher education and employment and training.

It is absolutely crucial for local authorities, in the face of budget cuts, to unconditionally protect funding for services to children and young people with ASN, providing the vital support that this group so desperately need.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition: Tom McGhee, Managing Director, Spark of Genius; Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive, Who Cares? Scotland; Sophie Pilgrim, Director, Kindred Scotland; Stuart Jacob, Director, Falkland House School; Christine Carlin, Chief Executive, Mindroom; Niall Kelly, Managing Director, Young Foundations; Liz May, National Co-ordinator, Action for Sick Children Scotland

Walker Street, Edinburgh