Education unions call for funding for additional support needs

Lobby groups urged the Scottish Government and councils to fully resource legal duties for all pupils needing extra help.

Education unions call for funding for additional support needs in Scotland Getty Images

Education unions called for better funding for additional support needs (ASN), branding current provisions “inexcusable” – with nearly 40% of the school-age population requiring support.

Organisations representing support workers and parents, as well as teaching unions, collectively voiced concerns at “insufficient” levels of funding to deliver ASN provision to the almost 40% of pupils who require it.

The lack of provision was said to be detrimental to the wellbeing of pupils and staff, as well as the wider school community, and exacerbating the impact of poverty, with diagnoses expected to increase.

Lobby groups urged the Scottish Government and local authorities to fully resource legal duties for all pupils needing extra help and questioned if the Getting it Right for Every Child policy was effective.

Andrea Bradley, general secretary of Education Institute Scotland (EIS), said: “The under-funding and under-resourcing of ASN provision is a national scandal.

“The lack of resourcing and staffing is letting down the large and growing number of young people in need of additional support, a very large number of whom also live in poverty, piling untold pressure on already over-burdened teaching and support staff, and disrupting the learning and teaching environments across our schools.

“The Scottish Government and local authorities cannot sweep this issue under the carpet any longer – they must invest in ASN provision to ensure that we can mitigate the impact of poverty on children’s education and truly get it right for every child.”

Leanne McGuire, chair of Glasgow City Parents Group, said: “As parents, we see first hand how lack of funding for ASN impacts the entire school community.

“It’s heartbreaking to watch staff struggle to meet the needs of almost 40% of students. We urgently need the Scottish Government to ensure all our children receive the education and care they deserve.”

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland senior organiser in public services, said: “Our members are providing crucial support for pupils with but are coming under intolerable stress and increasing pressure.

“Classroom assistants are being asked to hold it together without adequate resource or support. Their work is vital to the running of schools and the life chances of young Scots.”

Mike Corbett, NASUWT Scotland national official, said: “The longer the Scottish Government fails to act, the bigger the challenge becomes for teachers and schools. Ministers cannot continue to ignore their duty to ensure every child can have their needs met.”

Cheryl Burnett, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said: “This has reached crisis point where we have been asked by parents regularly to provide advocacy and signpost for support to enable children to receive their entitlement.

“Requests for advocacy support are coming through on a daily basis with many parents left feeling that their children are being failed by our current system.”

Seamus Searson, general secretary, SSTA, said: “SSTA is increasingly concerned that the meaning of Getting it Right for Every Child has now become getting it right for council budgets, and calls on the Scottish Government to take meaningful action to ensure that children’s education is not compromised by budget concerns.”

Lilian Macer, Scotland regional secretary, Unison, said: “The number of pupils identified as having ASN is set to grow, yet funding levels and resources are woefully inadequate to meet the current number, let alone even more.

“Unison members are the army of classroom assistants who support our children with additional learning needs. They tell us that too many children attend mainstream schools but are not getting the education they deserve.

“Resources to support children with ASN should help them access an education not just a mainstream school. Staff cope with cuts to educational resources and to wider teams who should be supporting children like social work, CAMHS, speech and language therapy – which are all harder to access.”

Graham McNab, lead officer for local authorities, Unite Scotland, said: “The lack of funding to deliver ASN provision has reached inexcusable levels. We are badly letting down children and young people and compromising their rights to a confident and positive future. ”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While it is for local councils to determine the most appropriate educational provision, the Scottish Government is committed to improving outcomes for young people with additional support needs.

“Spending on additional support for learning reached a record high of £926m in the latest available figures [2022-23] to help address growing demand in this area.

“Through our continued investment of £15m per year, the number of FTE additional pupils support staff has also increased by 725 (4.4%), bringing the total number of support staff in Scotland in 2023 to 17,330.”

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