Scotland’s schools let down vulnerable pupils

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A coalition of charities has said austerity measures in council-run schools are set to create far bigger financial problems in the future

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25th April 2017 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Around a quarter of Scottish state school pupils are at risk of being let down by an education system that doesn't prioritse their needs, a coalition of charities has said.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) has launched a manifesto for the upcoming council elections warning that continuing to cut services for the 25% of children who have additional support needs (ASN) is an economic time-bomb.

It says councils must put more money into services, such as specialist teachers for ASN children, including those living with dyslexia, autism and mental health problems, or those who are care experienced.

Each council should also appoint a mental health champion from the newly elected cohort in a bid to ensure young people’s mental health remains a priority.

The SCSC, which includes Falkland House School, Who Cares Scotland and Action for Sick Children, warns that ASN provision in Scotland is under severe pressure due to a raft of austerity cuts. 

Commenting on the SCSC manifesto, Kenny Graham from Falkland House School, said: “Councils are facing a difficult financial environment, but they play an absolutely vital role in meeting the additional support needs of children and young people.

“We urge incoming council administrations to put services that impact on vulnerable children and young people at the very heart of their policy commitments and look for them to increase funding for these.

“Failing to do so amounts to a false economy because if their needs are not met they often go on to become a costly burden on society and the economy.”

Over 170,000 children and young people in Scotland’s publically funded primary, secondary and special schools are classed as having ASN, amounting to just under a quarter of pupils. This represents a 44% increase in the number of those identified with ASN since 2012.

However, since 2012 the number of specialist ASN teachers in local authority primary and secondary schools has fallen by 16%, from 2,146 to 1,799, and the number of pupil-support staff, such as ASN auxiliaries or care assistants, has fallen by 5%.

While the SCSC is fully in support of the presumption of mainstreaming, it has raised concerns that given these cuts vulnerable children and young people may not be getting the care and support they need in the classroom, with an impact not only on them, but on their peers and teachers.

It has called for these cuts in staffing numbers to be reversed, and that there is adequate resourcing provided to support mainstream, if that means a fully inclusive experience, supporting the closure of the educational attainment gap.

It also wants all secondary schools have access to a qualified and appropriately experienced counsellor, providing support to troubled and/or distressed children and young people, including those with mental health difficulties.

Currently Scotland is the only UK country with no national strategy for school-based counselling services.

The manifesto includes a raft of other measures, including a plea for increased funding in services dealing with children and young people with ASN, better training for those working in this field, professional independent advocacy for care experienced children and young people, and greater partnership work between the public, independent and third sector service providers.