According to the report, 248.7 pupils out of 1,000 – almost one in four – required addition support compared with 102.2 pupils per 1,000 in 2010. Children can need additional support for a range of reasons, including if they have learning difficulties or physical impairments, those whose English needs help, those with behavioural difficulties and very able children.
The single most common category was those with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, which showed an increase from 21.9 per 1,000 in 2010 increasing to 52.6 per 1,000 in 2016.
Increases have also been observed among those with mental health problems, increasing from one per 1,000 to 4.1 per 1,000. Those who take English as an additional language increased from nine per 1,000 to 39.3 per 1,0000, while those categorised as more able pupils increased from 1.2 per 1,000 to 4.8 per 1.0000.
The report by the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) said the rises could have been due to better recognition and changes in recording practice.
It also noted that since 2002 the number of pupils in special schools has fallen by 19 per cent, compared with a 4 per cent drop in the number of pupils in mainstream primary schools and a 13 per cent drop in the number of pupils in mainstream secondary schools over the same period.
The Scottish Conservatives pointed out that today’s document was released after the production of a report released in January which revealed that the number of additional support teachers in Scotland was at its lowest level since 2007.
Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said: “The SNP has repeatedly declared that education is a major priority, but its actions suggest otherwise.
“The growth in the number of pupils being identified with additional support needs has been accompanied by a fall in the number of teachers with the relevant specialist skills. Because of this fall in additional support teachers, many pupils are being badly let down.
“There is a very important debate to be had about the effectiveness of mainstreaming for some of our most vulnerable children, but that will not happen if there are too few teachers with relevant skills.”
The Spice report noted previous government guidance from 2002 which had presumed children who needed additional support should only be educated outside mainstream schools in exceptional circumstances.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Singling out support for learning teachers in this way is inaccurate - all teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs not just support for learning teachers.
“We are committed to ensuring we have the right number of teachers, with the right skills, in the right places to educate our young people.”