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Holyrood committee calls for more action on additional support needs

Image credit: Anita Gould

Holyrood committee calls for more action on additional support needs

Members of Holyrood’s education committee have written to Education Secretary John Swinney calling for action to be taken on additional support needs.

Examining the progress that has been made since 2017 – when the committee last reported on ASN – it found that many of the issues raised were still relevant and needed to be addressed.

The committee met with parents, young people and school staff to gather evidence on issues such as the use of seclusion, restraint, part-time timetabling and unlawful exclusions.

The letter, signed by Clare Adamson, convener of the education and skills committee, said: “A number of contributions suggested that some children and young people are having to attend a school setting that is not suitable for their needs, or receive a level of support which is not sufficient, and it is only when the extent to which it is unsuitable can be demonstrated by parents or by a school that an enhanced level of support or alternative placement is found.

“The committee considers that the evidence it received highlights that too many children and young people go through often traumatic formative experiences, the effects of which then require to be worked through when they move to a new school setting.

“There is clearly a perception that children and young people need to be tested out, and demonstrate that they struggle, in mainstream education first before they can receive more appropriate support in that setting or elsewhere.”

Last month, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, made up of leading independent and charity organisations, said it was difficult to see how mainstreaming was “functioning properly” for all ASN pupils due to a fall in specialist support combined with the increase in pupils identified with conditions such as autism and mental health problems.

Figures from the annual Scottish Government pupil census indicated that between 2012 and 2018, the number of specialist teachers supporting those with ASN decreased from 3,840 to 3,437, representing a new low.

The figures also highlighted a fall in the number of specialist support staff in key categories such as behaviour support staff, where the number has dropped by 58 from 2012 (from 180 to 122) and by 43 in the number of educational psychologists (from 411 to 368).

Meanwhile, the number of pupils identified with ASN rose from 118,034 in 2012 to 199,065 in 2018 - with the total now representing 28.7 per cent of pupils.

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