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Concerns raised over pupils with additional support needs

​​​​​​​MSPs fear little progress has been made since a 2017 report found inclusion policies were stalling owing to a lack of resources

Concerns raised over pupils with additional support needs

MSPs have written to Scotland's education secretary John Swinney calling for action to be taken to address concerns around additional support needs (ASN) in schools.

The Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee has been scrutinising how much progress has been made by the Scottish government in addressing issues around ASN that were highlighted in its 2017 report on the matter.

The review has involved a range of evidence sessions and engagement work, including MSPs hearing from parents, carers, teachers and school staff to consider their views.

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In its letter to Mr Swinney, the committee notes that many issues raised in the 2017 inquiry "still remain relevant".

The letter states: "In light of the evidence received on seclusion and restraint, part-time timetabling, unlawful exclusions and home-schooling as a last resort, the committee considers that the Scottish government should consider ways of improving data-gathering on these approaches, be it through random sampling of schools or a wider approach."

In one part of the letter, the committee indicates that a statement it made in 2017, suggesting that the national policy of inclusion was having the opposite effect in some circumstances owing to a lack of resources, could still be considered to be relevant.

The committee says it would welcome the Scottish government's perspective on a suggestion made by one contributor to the inquiry that the definition of what constituted ASN under existing legislation should be reviewed.

Monitoring staffing levels is also highlighted as an area that should be further considered.

The letter reads: "As previously raised with you, in order to allow for a meaningful assessment of trends in staffing levels it is vital to have statistics that reflect the number of support staff with a specialism in supporting those with additional support needs.

"Work to standardise the nomenclature used by local authorities is a starting point for making progress in this area."

In another section of the letter, the committee outlines the experiences of parents and highlights that some parents consider that they need to "actively and vigorously" pursue adequate support for their children.

The letter states: "The committee reiterates its analysis from 2017 on the need for increased awareness-raising and support for parents, including the recommendation that the Scottish government should increase the provision of advocacy services and look at how these could be best targeted at raising awareness and supporting parents from areas of deprivation."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We welcome the recommendations from the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee and will consider these carefully.

"All young people deserve the same opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential, and the Scottish government is committed to ensuring that all children and young people receive the support that they need to reach their learning potential.

"We have recently published revised guidance on the presumption to mainstream education, alongside online resources to support school staff in their delivery of support to pupils."

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