Teachers for pupils with support needs at an all time low


A coalition of charities says pupils who need extra help in the classroom are being failed and extra funded is desperately needed

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13th March 2018 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Specialist teachers who can work with pupils who need extra support have fallen to an all-time low.

New figures show a 15.9% decrease in specialist additional support needs (ASN) teachers over a five year period that saw the number of pupils in need of help soar to 183,257.

Children’s charities say the Scottish Government and local authorities must no put extra money into schools to help youngsters with problems such as learning disabilities, autism, mental health problems or physical disabilities.

The figures, from the annual Scottish Government pupil census, indicate that between 2012 and 2017 the number of specialist ASN teachers in publically funded primary and secondary schools has decreased from 3,248 to 2,733.

In the same period, the number of children classed as needing additional support at school rose by 55.6% from 117,755 to 183,257.

The number of pupils identified with autism spectrum in state schools has increased by over 73%, those with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties by over 68%, those in care by 48%, those with physical health problems by over 77% and those with mental health problems by over 165%.

There are also now 2,500 youngsters who are classed as young carers, a 467% increase from 2012, and, the number of pupils where English is an additional language doubled from 15,148 to 30,135.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) said those with ASN in Scotland’s schools, who disproportionately come from lower income families and areas of deprivation, are not getting the care and support that they need.

Stephen McGhee from coalition member Spark of Genius, an education and residential provider, commented: “It is clearly positive to see that we are become increasingly good at identifying and recording those with ASN, such as autism, dyslexia, mental health problems and learning difficulties.

“However, what is key is that we provide those requiring it with the care and support that they need, if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap. This is clearly difficult in an environment of austerity and budget cuts, with evidence of cuts in the number of ASN teachers.”

Given this fall in support for those with ASN, the SCSC has also raised concerns over the effectiveness of the presumption of mainstreaming policy, which stresses that all children and young people are educated in a mainstream environment unless exceptional circumstances apply.

McGhee said the coalition is supportive of mainstreaming, but added: “It is clearly difficult to see how this is functioning properly.”

Labour’s shadow cabinet secretary for education Iain Gray said the plummeting number of ASN teachers under the SNP is a national disgrace. 

He said: “A government that has preached for years that education is the top priority has systematically cut off opportunities for vulnerable young people. 

“This is the result of years of SNP cuts to local councils and the only way to fix this problem is to provide the funds councils need.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Now that 95% of children with additional support needs are educated in mainstream schools, all teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs not just ‘support for learning’ teachers. To single out support for learning teachers is inaccurate.

“Local authorities spent £5.07 billion on education in the most recent financial year, a real terms increase of 0.3%. Of that, £610 million was spent on additional support for learning, representing a 2.3% increase in real terms. We remain committed to maintaining teacher numbers nationally, and ensuring that we have the right number of teachers, with the right skills, in the right places, to educate our young people.”