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We’re failing children with additional support needs

This opinion piece is over 7 years old

Stuart Jacob calls for increased investment to support Scotland's 170,000 young people with additional support needs

Stuart Jacob
Stuart Jacob

Recently released statistics on Scotland’s schools highlight the fact that over 170,000 pupils in our schools have additional support needs (ASN), such as dyslexia, autism and learning disabilities, representing just under a quarter of the pupil population.

This 44% increase in numbers for those with ASN since 2012 is set against a decline in the number of additional support for learning teachers in primary and secondary schools, which has fallen by over 19% over the same period.

There has also been an accompanying 5% fall in the number of support staff, such as Additional Support Needs auxiliaries and behaviour support staff, again over the same period.

While we as a coalition fully support the presumption of mainstreaming, incorporating those with ASN into mainstream education, this is clearly challenging against a background of cuts in support.

It is an issue we have been campaigning on for some time and recently wrote to the Scottish Government and all of Scotland’s 32 local authorities to seek increased investment in these areas.

It is vital that both the Scottish Government and local authorities invest in addressing the needs of children and young people with ASN, who will struggle to succeed without proper support. One practical thing the Scottish Government could do, in addition to greater investment, is to use a proportion of its £750m attainment fund to bolster targeted support.

In addition, local authorities should look to greater collaboration with the independent and third sector to provide such support, both educational and otherwise.

The cost to society in the long term if investment is not increased will far outweigh any potential savings made today, and will hinder any efforts to close the educational attainment gap.

Children and young people with ASN represent some of the most vulnerable in our society and we should give them the care and support they so vitally need.

Stuart Jacob is director of the Falkland House School and he is writing on behalf of the Scottish Children's Services Coalition.