Charities warn against cuts in ASN funding

Money spent of additional support needs (ASN) should be seen as an investment, says Scottish coalition of charities

Henry Hepburn

Councils must not cut their budgets for additional support needs, say Scottish disability charities

Disability charities are urging Scotland's 32 local authorities to maintain crucial funding for children and young people with additional support needs (ASN).

Those affected, an estimated 199,000 in total, include children with physical, sensory or learning disabilities in mainstream education, and pupils with health conditions.

In a letter to council leaders, the coalition of charities emphasises that such provision is crucial to ensuring that all school pupils get the chance to achieve their full potential.

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"Without access to specialist teachers and assistants, pupils with additional support needs will not get equal access to education as their peers," the letter states. "With proper support, they can engage with their peers, take part in activities that they may otherwise be excluded from and grow their confidence and independent living skills."

Call to protect ASN funding

The signatories to the letter include RNIB Scotland, Enable Scotland, Down's Syndrome Scotland, Lead Scotland, National Deaf Children's Society, Scottish Autism and The Alliance.

RNIB Scotland director James Adams said: "The expectation now is, rightly, that as far as possible all children and young people should be included in mainstream schools.

"But in order for those students with additional support needs to be fully included they, and their teachers, need support so that they can get the most out of their education. We are heartened to have the support of charities from across the sector behind this letter."

Mr Adams added: "We welcome the Scottish government announcement of a £15 million funding boost for more services and staff for additional support for learning. However, we remain concerned that local government cuts could still put ASN budgets at risk."

In order to benchmark levels of ASN provision around the country, the letter is asking each council how many pupils they currently have with additional support needs; how much money is being allocated to provision this year compared with last year; and how many specialist support teachers and pupil support assistants they employ compared with last year.

"Money spent on ASN is an investment," the letter states. "With proper support, young people can be best prepared to achieve their full potential and move on to positive destinations.

"ASN, in its most basic form, allows the pupil to access the core curriculum, but in practice it does so much more than that. ASN can equip pupils to engage with their peers, take part in activities that they may otherwise be excluded from, and grow their confidence and independent living skills."

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

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.

At the time of the announcement, education secretary John 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."

Brexit 'won't cut council links'

Meanwhile, Scottish councils have said they will continue to work closely with their European counterparts "regardless of the outcome of Brexit".

Cosla, the umbrella body that represents Scottish local authorities, announced that it will still have a team based in Brussels after Brexit, working with the EU and monitoring any developments that could have an impact on local government in Scotland.

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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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