The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) has called on the Scottish Government and local authorities to urgently increase investment in pupils with additional support needs (ASN) if it is to deliver genuine inclusion in schools.
The call comes in the coalition’s submission to a Scottish Government consultation on guidance on mainstreaming – that all children and young people be educated in a mainstream school environment, unless exceptional circumstances apply – which closed today (Friday 9th February).
The SCSC, which campaigns to improve services for vulnerable children and young people, noted major concerns over the inclusion of some children and young people with ASN in mainstream education. It cites the poor experience many of these have in such an environment is clear evidence that more needs to be done if genuine inclusion is to be achieved.
In its submission, the SCSC cites figures that since 2012 the number of pupils in mainstream primary and secondary schools with ASN has risen by 47.3 per cent, from 111,058 to 163,594 (24.1 per cent of pupils), while the number of overall staff in schools, encompassing teachers, ASN auxiliaries and behaviour support staff, has dropped by 3 per cent over the same period, from 16,377 to 15,880.
Moreover, average per-pupil spending by local authorities on additional support for learning (local authority primary, secondary and special education), has fallen from £4,276 in 2012/13 to £3,817 in 2015/16, amounting to £459 per pupil and representing an 11% cut.
This combination of increasing demand on services set against a background of cuts to public services and delays in identification, assessment and intervention, means that many children and young people with ASN are missing out on the classroom support they so vitally need.
The requirement to provide education in a mainstream setting for children and young people with ASN, including physical disabilities, learning difficulties and social, emotional or behavioural problems, has been in legislation since 2002.
The coalition reaffirmed its support of mainstreaming as a central pillar of inclusive education, however emphasised that a severe lack of resources was preventing mainstream schools being able to fully support pupils with ASN. The coalition also highlighted that local authorities must be assisted to increase the number of special school/unit places available, reflecting the rising numbers of children and young people with complex or specific needs. These places may be provided by the local authority or independent sector, on a wider geographic basis.
Kenny Graham, Head of Education at Falkland House School and coalition member, said:
“Many families face an uphill struggle when trying to get additional support for their child in a mainstream environment. We have seen increasing numbers of those being identified with additional support needs, set against the background of reduced numbers of specialist teachers and support staff.
“A presumption of mainstreaming is also challenging in that, especially for children with ADHD, autism, and Tourette’s, many teachers lack the proper training in how to identify these conditions and in how best to support the child.
“Mainstreaming should not simply mean entering the gates of a local school. It should mean inclusion in the aspiration of a mainstream curriculum with all the positive experiences and outcomes that should entail, regardless of where that school is. It should mean inclusion in a school community that supports real development and growth, not education in a segregated class with alternate break times. It should mean good mental and emotional well-being.
“If we are to deliver genuine inclusion then that means providing the necessary resourcing to ensure the needs of all children, whether they have ASN or not, are met in the classroom.”
For more information please contact Sarah Robertson, Policy and Communications Adviser to the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, on 0131 603 8996 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition is an alliance of leading independent and third sector service providers that care for and support vulnerable children and young people, as well as their families.
Its vision is for Scotland to become a world leader in the care and support of vulnerable children and young people. The SCSC aims to achieve this through campaigning for a wide-range of high-quality, well-resourced and quickly accessible services. This is so that they get best possible care and support, tailored to their individual needs and helping them to achieve their full potential.
SCSC members, between them, deliver specialist care and education services to children and young people with additional support needs (ASN), as well as direct help and support to their families. They also provide independent advocacy, advice and representation to children and young people with care experience
- Falkland House School: An independent school based in Fife that specialises in the education and care of boys who require support for learning. It was one of the first independent schools in Scotland to be awarded Autism Accreditation by the National Autistic Society and offers day, 39 week and 52 week placements. Further information can be found at falklandhouseschool.org.
- Spark of Genius: An independent organisation offering residential care, education, autism services, post-16 employability programmes and adult services throughout the UK. It enables children, young people and adults who need a variety of support to achieve their potential. Further information can be found at sparkofgenius.com
- Who Cares? Scotland: A third sector independent advocacy organisation that provides individual and collective advocacy to care experienced children and young people across Scotland, as well as Corporate Parenting training and information. Who Cares? Scotland has been working with children and young people for over 35 years and uses this experience to campaign, lobby and speak out both with and on their behalf. Further information can be found at whocarescotland.org.
- Young Foundations: An independent organisation specialising in the care of children and young people with a range of complex needs. The aim of our Scottish service is to care, support, develop and empower young people with complex difficulties to realise their potential in a safe, secure and nurturing environment. This is achieved through a holistic model of care which is distinctive of compassion, skill and evidence based positive interventions. Further information can be found at youngfoundations.com.