Additional Support Needs

Campaigning to improve services for children and young people with additional support needs

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition is committed to improving support for children and young people with additional support needs (ASN). We aim to achieve this through campaigning for the increased provision of a wide range of high-quality, well-resourced and quickly accessible services.

A  number of factors may lead to a child or young person having a need for additional support, which will help them to get the most out of their pre-school or school education.

Additional support may be required if, for example, they have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, learning disabilities, learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorder, physical or mental health problems, are looked after, or encounter adverse life events such as bereavement.

The Scottish Government’s annual pupil census indicates that in 2020, 226,838 pupils in Scotland’s schools (publicly funded primary, secondary and special) were identified with ASN. This represents just under a third of all pupils (32.3%), of which 58.0% are boys. The number of pupils identified with ASN has nearly doubled (92.2%) since 2012 (from 118,011 pupils).

Children and young people with ASN are disproportionately drawn from poorer neighbourhoods. They also experience poorer educational and employment outcomes than those with no ASN.

An increasing number of those with ASN has an obvious impact not just on the individual concerned, but also on the economy and society.

Early intervention and greater support

We are committed to ensuring that children and young people with ASN get the care and support they need, when they need it. To achieve this we are seeking the increased provision of a wide range of high-quality, well-resourced and quickly accessible services.

These services include support from teachers (including ASN teachers) and support staff, educational psychologists, mental health professionals and other specialist services.

A ‘lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people

Under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 (as amended), education authorities have a statutory requirement to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of children and young people for whose education they are responsible.

However, the combination of an increasing demand on services against the background of a lack of resources and delays in identification, assessment and intervention, means that many children and young people with ASN are missing out on the care and support they so vitally need. This is leading to a potential ‘lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people and is set to worsen especially given rising levels of poverty, inequality and the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Well-resourced services will help to address the poorer educational and employment outcomes these children and young people experience, supporting the closing of the educational attainment gap and creating a more equal society.

It is also clearly vital that those who are thought to require additional support, have this identified as early as possible, are promptly assessed and provided with it. Such early intervention can assist in preventing further difficulties developing later, maximising their life chances.

We have built up a strong reputation campaigning for the increased provision of such services to children and young people with ASN.

A presumption of mainstreaming

The cornerstone of an inclusive approach to education is a presumption of mainstreaming for pupils with ASN, meaning that they are educated in a mainstream school unless exceptional circumstances apply. As a coalition we are fully in support of a presumption to mainstream these children and young people.

However, we are concerned that there is a lack of resources, staff and co-ordinated support when it comes to addressing the needs of an increasing number of those with ASN in these schools.

Many children and young people with ASN are therefore being left poorly supported, which also impacts on fellow pupils and teachers, or are excluded from school altogether. An increase in support is required to help them meet their needs, ensuring that inclusion is meaningful.

There are also many children and young people currently in mainstream education whose interests would be better served by being in a special school or special unit attached to a mainstream school.

We are campaigning to:

  • Deliver greater resourcing – there must be substantially increased investment in services that provide care and support to children and young people with ASN. This includes the increased provision of teachers (including ASN teachers) and support staff, educational psychologists, mental health professionals and other specialist support services.
  • Improve identification and assessment – there must be prompter identification and assessment of children and young people who are thought, for whatever reason, to require additional support. This support should be provided as early as possible and in addition to this those with complex and high-level needs entitled to a co-ordinated support plan should receive one.
  • Deliver greater support – there must be increased and more co-ordinated support for those children and young people with ASN in mainstream education, in accordance with a presumption of mainstreaming. Additionally, there must be a greater number of special school and special unit places attached to mainstream schools to better meet the needs of those requiring this provision.
  • Promote greater collaboration – there must be greater collaboration between public, private and third sector service providers to deliver the best possible care and support to children and young people with ASN, tailored to their individual needs.
  • Promote greater awareness – there must be a drive to increase awareness of the rights children and young people with ASN and their parents or carers have, as well as looking to deliver a greater public understanding of ASN more generally.
  • Ensure adequate training – there must be adequate training of teachers and support staff, social workers, health professionals and other practitioners. This will ensure that they are better able to identify and provide effective support to children and young people with ASN.
  • Deliver better recording and reporting of ASN – there must be clearer guidance from the Scottish Government to local authorities to ensure the consistent and meaningful identification and recording of pupils with ASN, given the significant variation between local authorities in the proportion of those identified. This is a vital first step in ensuring that spending is in line with the level of need in each authority.
  • Promote innovative thinking – there must be greater promotion and sharing of good practice and innovative thinking in the provision of services for children and young people with ASN.
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