Additional support needs children ‘failed by teacher shortage’

The number of specialist teachers has fallen by more than 1000 over the last decade.

The Scottish Government has been accused of failing children with additional support needs as figures showed the number of specialist teachers has fallen by more than 1000 over the last decade.

Data released by education secretary John Swinney shows that in 2019, classrooms employed the full-time equivalent (FTE) of 2836 specialist additional supports need (ASN) teaching staff – down from 3887 in 2010.

With the number of children requiring extra help having increased over that period, Scottish Greens said there is now only one specialist teacher for every 76 ASN pupils.

Greens education spokesman Ross Greer said: “Thousands of children in Scotland with additional needs are being failed.

“I have raised this with the Government time and again over a number of years, but the picture still is not improving.”

Scottish Government figures show that last year, 215,897 pupils – 30.9% of all students – were recorded as needing some form of additional support – up from 199,065 youngsters in 2018.

Mr Greer said: “Specialist teachers are essential to supporting pupils with additional needs but they are gradually disappearing from our schools, at the same time as demand skyrockets.

“We know already that this lockdown is disproportionately hard for young people with additional needs and for their families, with a real risk that the attainment gap will be widened.

“As well as the need for urgent support, the Scottish Government must ensure that when schools do return to normal, it is a new normal where those with additional support needs are given a far fairer opportunity to learn than they have been this past decade.”

His comments were echoed by the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), which campaigns to improve services for vulnerable children and young people,.

A spokesman for the coalition said: “The comments over a cut in specialist teachers reinforce concerns we have raised for some time now about a potential ‘lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people.

“It is vital that those with ASN get the care and support they need, especially during and as we come out of the current Covid-19 crisis.”

He raised concerns the educational attainment gap will “inevitably widen” during lockdown.

But he added: “The cost to society in the long-term if adequate support is not provided will far outweigh any potential savings made today.

“Ensuring the adequate provision of educational support for children and young people with ASN is critical and yet too many pupils are missing out on the specialist support they require because of cuts in specialist support at a time of increasing need.

“When children and young people with ASN return to school it is vital that we use this as an opportunity to give them the specialist support they need, ensuring that we can address increased inequalities that will have inevitably arisen due to lockdown.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “All children and young people should receive the support that they need to reach their learning potential and all teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs, not just ‘support for learning’ staff.

“Education authorities are responsible for identifying and meeting the additional support needs of their pupils. This includes the employment and provision of appropriate resources, including teaching and support staff, to meet children’s needs.

“We will continue to provide additional support to education authorities by investing an additional 15 million this year to further enhance capacity in education authorities and schools to respond effectively to the individual needs of children and young people.

“We recognise children and young people with additional support needs may be finding this difficult time particularly challenging. Local authorities are best placed to identify how best to meet the needs of the children and young people in their local area and have been using creative ways of supporting them.”

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