(UK) Scotland: >30% of students have special needs; govt cutting SPED funds

May 9, 2022, Scottish National: Scottish ASN pupils face funding cuts and record-low teacher numbers

COUNCILS have slashed funding for children with special needs by £874 [$1,077] per pupil over the past decade and are facing calls to take urgent action.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) has called on incoming council leaders to put children with additional support needs (ASN) at the top of their agendas following the local elections.

The group, which represents providers of specialist childcare and education, analysed figures for the amount spent on ASN pupils since 2012/13.

They found the average spend per pupil has fallen from £4276 [$5,273] in the 2012/13 financial year to £3402 [$4,295] in 2020/21 in cash terms. This is a 20.4% cut over the period.

Just under a third of pupils across Scotland have ASN – including those with autism, dyslexia and mental health problems – and the number is rising.

The SCSC said ASN pupils are “disproportionately drawn from poorer neighbourhoods” and pointed to figures which showed their numbers had increased by 92.2% since 2012. ASN pupils increased from 118,011 in 2012 to 226,838 in 2020.

And teacher numbers have also fallen in the period to their lowest-ever levels, the SCSC said.

Between 2012 and 2020 the number of full-time equivalent ASN teachers has fallen from 3389 to an all-time low of 2860, a decrease of 529 teachers, representing a cut of 15.6%....

A spokesperson said: “All teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs, not just 'support for learning' staff.

“Figures published in December 2021 show that teacher numbers have increased for the sixth year in a row, rising to 54,285 in 2021. This means there are more teachers than at any time since 2008, with the ratio of pupils to teachers at its lowest since 2009.

“The Scottish Government is investing £145.5 million [$179M] to support education staffing in 2022-23, representing the biggest increase to support teacher recruitment since 2007.

“We also provide councils with an additional £15 million [$18M] each year to help them respond to the individual needs of children and young people. This has allowed the recruitment of 1,036 extra pupil support assistants in 2021.”