Pupils with additional support needs (ASN) require more resources in school, a group of charities has warned, as the number of specialist teachers has fallen to a record low.
The latest figures show that the number of ASN teachers in Scotland has fallen to 2,811 in 2020, down from 3,389 in 2012.
Over the same period, the number of pupils identified as having additional support needs has almost doubled.
Additional support needs: Why do we not focus on ASN pupils' gifts and assets?
A year of Covid: Explore this free special issue of Tes Scotland
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) says the government and local councils must do more to ensure that ASN pupils receive the help they need.
Drop in specialist support for ASN pupils
The coalition is made up of a number of groups that provide services to vulnerable children.
A spokesperson for the SCSC said: “It is vital that those with ASN get the care and support they need, especially during – and as we come out of – the current Covid-19 crisis.
“This is also key if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap as we know that those with ASN disproportionately come from lower-income families and areas of deprivation.
“Such a situation is clearly challenging in an environment of austerity and evidence of cuts in spending per pupil with ASN and in the number of specialist teachers supporting this group.”
The spokesperson added: “While we also support the presumption of mainstreaming, which means that all children and young people are educated in a mainstream educational environment unless exceptional circumstances apply, it is clearly difficult to see how this is functioning properly for all those with ASN given this fall in specialist support and increase in the number of those identified with conditions such as autism and mental health problems.”
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “All children and young people should receive the support that they need to reach their learning potential and all teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs, not just ‘support for learning’ staff.
“Councils are responsible for identifying and meeting the additional support needs of their pupils.
“We continue to provide additional support to councils through the investment of an additional £15 million each year to further enhance capacity to respond effectively to the individual needs of children and young people.
“This year, 1,354 extra pupil support assistants were recruited, exceeding our programme for government commitment to deliver 1,000 new support assistants.”