1,000 more support staff announced for Scottish schools

Union hopes move will start 'turning the tide of declining staff numbers'

Henry Hepburn

1,000 more support staff announced for Scottish schools

Plans have been announced for the recruitment of 1,000 extra pupil-support assistants in Scotland, who will work with pupils who have additional support needs (ASN).

The move comes after years of complaints that a decline in support staff was leaving ASN pupils “badly let down”.

Scotland’s education secretary and deputy first minister John Swinney made the announcement today at St Joseph's Primary School in Dundee.

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This week, first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced funding of £15 million for councils to expand on the 13,636 pupil-support assistants already working in Scotland’s classrooms.

Mr Swinney said: “Every child should have the support they need to reach their full learning potential. Through listening to the experiences of children and young people with additional support needs, their families and those who support them, we recognise we need to do more to enhance their experience at school. 

“Working in partnership with local authorities we will invest an extra £15 million in the coming year to increase frontline staff to support learners with additional support needs.

“This will make a significant impact in our classrooms and will help to ensure our young people and their families get the right help at the right time.”

Stephen McCabe, spokesman for local authorities body Cosla, said: “Additional resource for local government is always welcomed and this funding will make a positive difference to children and young people in classrooms across Scotland, helping those with additional support needs to reach their full potential on their school journey."

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said: “This investment is very welcome news. Just before the summer we presented the deputy first minister with our report which highlighted that, in most parts of the country, ASN requirements are not being met.

"This is of huge concern to Scotland’s teachers as shown in a recent EIS member survey where over 78 per cent of respondents stated that there was inadequate provision for children with ASN in their school."

Mr Flanagan added: “While this investment will go some way towards alleviating members’ concerns around ASN provision, the EIS is clear that there needs to be a significant increase in ASN specialist teachers in Scotland’s schools. Years of austerity have affected the education sector with ASN provision being unfairly cut. Many specialist ASN posts have disappeared, which negatively impacts both pupils and staff who have to cope with the additional workload.”

"The number of young people with additional support needs is increasing. These pupils deserve the necessary level of resources and specialised staff to meet their needs. Every child deserves to be fully engaged and involved in their school.”

The Voice Scotland union, which represents many pupil-support assistants, welcomed the announcement.

Senior professional officer Dougie Atkinson said: “We have regularly raised our concerns about the collapse in support staff numbers with Mr Swinney and in the media.

“We are therefore pleased by news of this announcement. We will need to study the details, but it is a welcome start in turning the tide of declining staff numbers.”

Mr Atkinson added: “Pupil support assistants provide invaluable support to children with additional support needs.”

After first minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined the programme of government this week, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard challenged her to quicken the pace of change in child and adolescent mental health.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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