Thousands of Scottish children with additional support needs (ASN) may not be getting the support they are entitled to due to local authority cuts, according to a coalition of third and independent sector children’s services providers.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), a coalition of organisations dealing with those with learning difficulties and complex needs as well as those with care experience, has highlighted new figures showing a drop in the number of Additional Support for Learning Teachers in the past 5 years.
Those with ASN include young people with autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and those with care experience.
The number of Additional Support for Learning Teachers has dropped by 13% from 3,363 to 2,963 between 2010 and 2014, according to the answer to a Parliamentary Question from Siobhan McMahon MSP. In all, 22 out of 32 local authorities have recorded a fall in numbers in that time.
This is against the background of the fact that more than 1 in 5 (20.8%) of those in the school population – 140,524 pupils - are identified as having ASN, of which 62% are boys.
Overall, teacher numbers have also dropped in the same period, from 52,022 in 2010 to 50,814 in 2014.
Under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended), local authorities have a statutory requirement to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils.
The SCSC has previously expressed concern at the level of cuts being proposed by local authorities and believe the impact this will have on services and resources for pupils with ASN may be breach their statutory rights.
Additionally, the SCSC believe that cutting support to the likes of educational psychologists, speech therapists and support staff is also a false economy as it is in the interests of all concerned that investment in these services is continued to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our society, ensuring that they reach their full potential.
“Against a more than doubling in the number of those identified as ASN, the fact that the number of Additional Support for Learning Teachers has reduced by more than 13% is deeply worrying,” said a spokesperson for the SCSC. “We are aware that 1 in 5 of the pupil population have ASN and we know the great benefits to be garnered by early detection and intervention.
“Cutting numbers of these specialist staff will only serve to isolate more young people and their families. For us, this is completely unacceptable. By reducing the number of these teachers we are preventing many of these vulnerable young people chance of achieving a positive school-leaver destination, such as further education or employment, meaning that they are not achieving their full potential.
“ASN disproportionally affects those children from lower income families and areas of deprivation. If we are to close the attainment gap this is one group of individuals we need to devote resources to.
“With accompanying cuts in support to the likes of educational psychologists, speech therapists and support staff we are facing the worrying prospect of a lost generation of young people.”