Concerns over number of children needing additional support as SNP cut spending

Concerns over spending cuts for additional support needs pupils
Concerns over spending cuts for additional support needs pupils
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The Scottish Children's Services Coalition has called for greater resourcing to support children and young people with additional support needs (ASN).

The call comes as new figures reveal that spend per ASN pupil has slumped dramatically while the number of specialist teachers supporting pupils has dropped to a new low and the numbers with ASN has escalated dramatically.

Figures reveal that per pupil spend on those with ASN has slumped from £4,276 in 2012/13 to £3,387 in 2017/18.

This amounts to a cut of £889 per pupil, representing a 26.1 per cent drop in real terms (20.8 per cent in cash terms).

The figures, from the annual Scottish Government pupil census, indicate that between 2012 and 2018 the number of specialist teachers supporting those with ASN (publically funded primary, secondary, special and centrally employed) has decreased from 3,840 to 3,437, a decline of 403, representing a new low.

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The figures also highlighted a fall in the number of specialist support staff in key categories such as behaviour support staff, where the number has dropped by 58 from 2012 (from 180 to 122) and by 43 in the number of educational psychologists (from 411 to 368).

This fall is against the background of an overall increase by 68.7 per cent since 2012 in the number of pupils identified with ASN, from 118,034 to 199,065 in 2018, representing just over a quarter of all pupils (28.7 per cent).

Against a background of a per pupil cut in spending and in specialist support, the campaign group has called for greater resourcing from both the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure that those with ASN in Scotland’s schools, who disproportionately come from lower income families and areas of deprivation, are getting the care and support that they need.

The Scottish Children's Services Coalition (SCSC) also raised concerns about the effectiveness of a presumption of mainstreaming, that all pupils be educated in a mainstream educational environment unless exceptional circumstances apply.

The fall in the number of specialist teachers is set against a background of dramatic increases in the reasons pupils being identified with ASN, such as autism, dyslexia and mental health problems, in Scotland’s schools.

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A spokesperson for the SCSC said: “It is vital that those with ASN get the care and support they need, which is also key if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap. This is clearly challenging in an environment of austerity and evidence of cuts in spending per pupil with ASN and in the number of specialist teachers supporting this group and in key support staff categories.

“While we also support the presumption of mainstreaming, that all children and young people be educated in a mainstream educational environment unless exceptional circumstances apply, it is clearly difficult to see how this is functioning properly for all those with ASN given this fall in specialist support and increase in the number of those identified with conditions such as autism and mental health problems.

“The Scottish Government and local authorities need to work together to provide the necessary resourcing to address the needs of those children and young people with ASN, who represent some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society. “