More help urged as number of pupils with additional support needs rises

The number of pupils with additional support needs (ASN) has soared in the past six years, while funding and the amount of specialist teachers have fallen, new analysis indicates.

The Scottish Children Services Coalition analysed the annual Scottish Government Pupil Census and found large increases in most categories of pupils requiring additional support.

The number of pupils requiring support for mental health problems has more than tripled between 2012 and 2018, up 252%.

Those with communication support needs have increased by 293% in the same period, while pupils identified as having autism spectrum disorder have more than doubled, rising by 101%.

Students needing help at school for physical health problems have risen by 98% in the six-year period, while those with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties have increased by 86%.

Students with dyslexia have risen 60% and those requiring help with English as an additional language have more than doubled, up by 130%.

All 24 categories record an increase between 2012 and 2018, apart from pupils requiring support for a learning disability which fell by 15%.

The figures are for publicly funded primary, secondary and special schools.

  • Communication support needs 293%

  • Mental health problems 252%

  • Autism spectrum disorder 101%

  • Physical health problems 98%

  • Social, emotional and behavioural difficulties 86%

Overall, the number of pupils with additional support needs has risen by 69% between 2018 and 2018, from 118,034 to 199,065.

Pupils with additional support needs now make up more than a quarter (29%) of all pupils.

The commission said the increase is partially due to increased recognition and diagnosis of conditions, as well as improvements in recording, and this helps target support and funding.

However, it highlighted drops in per-pupil funding and specialist teachers, and called for the necessary resources to be made available.

The census figures indicate the number of full-time equivalent specialist teachers supporting ASN pupils has fallen by 403 between 2012 and 2018, from 3,840 to 3,437.

Spending has fallen by an average of £883 per pupil between the £4,276 in 2013/13 to £3,393 in 2017/18 – a 27% cut in real terms.

The coalition backs the presumption of mainstreaming ASN pupils outwith exceptional circumstances but said it is “difficult to see how this is functioning properly” given the fall in specialist support and increase in those requiring it.

A coalition spokesman said: “It is clearly positive to see that we are become increasingly good at identifying and recording those with ASN, such as autism, dyslexia, mental health problems and learning difficulties.

“Greater clarity in these figures allows resourcing to be targeted in a more appropriate manner.

“However, what is key is that we provide those requiring it with the care and support that they need, if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap.

“This is clearly difficult in an environment of austerity and budget cuts, with evidence of cuts in the number of ASN teachers and support staff.”

The coalition called for the Scottish Government and local authorities to work together to provide the necessary resources required for ASN pupils.