Pupils with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are being “failed” by Scottish schools, according to a report published today.
It claims that teachers’ ignorance about the condition and cuts to school budget are forcing parents to fight for support they are entitled to – prompting calls for teachers to receive more training on ADHD.
Attending to Parents: Children's ADHD Services in Scotland 2018 finds that most parents surveyed do not believe their children’s teachers have a good understanding of ADHD and how to manage it in the classroom.
A majority also say that any plans made in school to support their child are “inadequate”. There are many examples of where promised support – such as one-to-one help from a learning assistant – has never materialised.
Parents surveyed also say children with ADHD are more likely to be excluded – on average six times, in their experience – and there is a common perception that schools do not take a diagnosis of ADHD seriously enough.
The report calls for a “systematic programme of continuing professional development about ADHD and related disorders” for teachers.
It states that many parents give examples of schools providing tailored, high-quality support for children, “showing how it can be done with the right resources, knowledge and leadership”. However, there are also “many comments that the support was inconsistent and depended on particular, interested staff”.
The report also looks at health services and finds that they, like education, are "failing many children with ADHD".
ADHD parents 'forced to fight for support'
One of the 200 parents surveyed by the Scottish ADHD Coalition said: “Schools need to be implementing additional support that the child is legally entitled to and understanding the social isolation experienced by families and supporting them, not making their job harder by forcing parents to fight for support to which they should be getting anyway.”
Lorna Redford, who supports families through the ADHD+ Perth and Kinross group, and is also a trustee of the coalition, said: “The survey findings reflect what we hear from parents all the time. It is imperative that school staff are recruited in sufficient numbers and trained about ADHD to ensure our children and young people receive the same educational opportunities as their non-ADHD peers.
“This modest and realistic target would reap huge rewards in the mental health, quality of life and societal outcomes for sufferers.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), a campaigning group of private and charitable organisations, said: “While the number of those identified with ADHD has increased – and this is,, of course, to be welcomed as they can get the care and support they need – there has been an associated fall in the number of specialist teachers and support staff in our schools.”
The SCSC said that training school staff on ADHD was an “absolute priority”, as “many teachers do not feel that they have sufficient training to address the needs of those with ADHD, which many [teachers] view as just being bad behaviour, rather than due to any underlying condition”.
The SCSC also highlighted Scottish government figures showing that the number of ASN (additional support needs) teachers fell from 3,248 to 2,733 between 2012 and 2017, coinciding with decreases in average spend per pupil by local authorities on additional support for learning.
Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, who in 2017 revealed that he had been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, called on the Scottish government to do more so that children can benefit from “timely” diagnosis of the condition.
Mental health minister Maureen Watt said the government had doubled the number of child and adolescent mental health service psychology posts in recent years, and was investing an extra £150 million in mental health over five years.
She added: “Early intervention and prevention are the cornerstone of our approach to mental health and wellbeing. Mental health needs to be something that everybody talks about, and reducing stigma and promoting discussion and early action is vital.”