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‘Terminal decline’ in support plans for special needs pupils to be reviewed

Scottish government promises to investigate the drop in the use of statutory support plans for ASN pupils

‘Terminal decline’ in support plans to be reviewed

The “terminal decline” of legally binding support plans for children with additional support needs (ASN) in Scotland is to be reviewed, the Scottish government has announced.

Education secretary John Swinney made the commitment during a Liberal Democrat-led education debate at the Scottish Parliament.

Background: Expert warns legally binding ASN plans ‘may disappear’

The stats: Additional support needs: what the stats show

Quick read: Teachers 'must challenge inclusion on the cheap’

Coordinated Support Plans (CSP) are statutory plans for young people with complex additional support needs who need significant educational help as well as further assistance from other agencies.

The plans enable parents or guardians to take legal action if their child does not receive the help to which they are entitled.

The Scottish Greens said it was concerned that the number of these plans has fallen since 2010 while the number of pupils with additional support needs has risen dramatically.

Mr Swinney told MSPs during the debate yesterday: "The government is prepared to undertake a review of coordinated support plans.

"We will consider how to strengthen the guidance and other support available to local authorities on coordinated support plans and will develop this work in partnership with stakeholders to ensure that in every respect we are meeting the needs of every pupil within our country."

Green MSP Ross Greer said: "While the number of pupils identified with an additional need has increased to almost 200,000, the number of CSPs has dropped to just under 2,000 today – that's 1 per cent of young people with identified additional needs having a Coordinated Support Plan."

Official figures published last year show the number of Scottish pupils with ASN rose from 118,034 in 2012 to 199,065 in 2018, an increase of 68.7 per cent. Pupils identified as having an ASN now make up more than 27 per cent of the total pupil population.

Over the same period, the number of pupils with a CSP decreased from 3,448 to 1,986, a drop from 2.9 per cent to 1 per cent of those with ASN, or around 0.3 per cent of the school population.

Mr Greer said councils are "not fully understanding what is required of them" when it comes to CSPs for children with additional support needs.

The MSP welcomed the government's commitment to review the use of the plans, and called for it to "immediately follow that with action to rectify the problem".

He added: "We're not short of testimonials from young people and parents who have gone through experiences nothing short of traumatic but for who the lack of a CSP have had little opportunity for recourse."

In evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee earlier this year, University of Edinburgh inclusion expert Professor Sheila Riddell said that CSPs were in “in terminal decline”. If the trend continued, she warned, CSPs “may virtually disappear” – despite the fact they were “an essential means of ensuring the children’s rights are realised”.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Children's Services Coalition pointed out that, in England, the use of education, health and care plans (EHCPs, the CSP equivalent) had increased, and now just under 3 per cent of the school population had an EHCP.

The spokesman welcomed the review in Scotland, adding that it would help ensure pupils with complex needs received the support they were entitled to.

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