Skip to main content

Autistic pupil’s support ‘slashed’, Nicola Sturgeon told

Thousands of Scotland's most vulnerable children are lacking specialist support because of cuts, first minister hears

Autistic pupil’s support has been ‘slashed’ due to council budget cuts, Nicola Sturgeon is told

Thousands of Scotland's most vulnerable children are lacking specialist support because of cuts, first minister hears

School support for a severely autistic child was slashed due to council funding cuts, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has been told.

At First Minister's Questions, Scottish Greens' leader, Patrick Harvie, raised the case of a five-year-old boy who is unable to use the toilet himself and whose parents now have to go into his school twice a day to change him.

Mr Harvie said that this week the school in Falkirk informed the boy’s parents that the specialist support he received would be reduced immediately to a quarter of what he had been getting.

Writing to Mr Harvie, the boy’s mother explained how happy they had been that he was able to go to a mainstream school, and said: "The first few weeks were challenging but we were amazed with how his social interaction improved.

"He can now speak, he's very intelligent and we are very proud to be his parents and want to thank the school for their support.

"On Monday, my husband was pulled aside by his teacher, who told us, as of that day, [his] support has been slashed from two hours per day to two-and-a-half hours per week."

She added: "Not only is this disappointing and stressful, we fear it will completely undo all the work that's been done to give [him] a routine.

"God forbid he has a bowel movement in between the allocated changing times.

"This slash of hours affects all kids with support needs, not just our son."

'Lack of support' for ASN pupils

Mr Harvie warned the first minister that with 500 fewer additional support needs staff in Scotland's schools since 2010, vulnerable children will suffer because of budget cuts.

At First Minister's Questions yesterday, he said: "Tales like [this] are horrendous, but by no means unique. The reality is that school life is getting worse for thousands of our most vulnerable children because of the lack of specialist support they need due to council budget cuts.

"Councils are now being forced to consider even more savage cuts to additional support needs provision because of the multi-million-pound hole they have to plug in local budgets."

Ms Sturgeon said: "The situation does not strike me as an acceptable one – I know how important it is for children with special needs in mainstream education to have the appropriate support.

"I will ask the deputy first minister and education secretary [John Swinney] to look at that case and any wider issues that it raises."

A Falkirk Council spokesman said: “Resources are allocated to each school for headteachers to manage appropriately, based on demand and needs of pupils.

“Recently, additional demand was placed on these resources as a result of additional needs from pupils and, consequently, some of the resources were reallocated within the school to meet all pupil needs (no resources have been removed from the school).

“This reallocation was initially discussed by the headteacher in good faith. However, it is clear from the concern of the family that this could be reconsidered – as a result, the original support offered will be maintained."

He added that the school had remained in contact with the boy’s parents and informed them of the decision.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you