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(UK) Scotland: 34% of students have special needs; teacher morale low, can't meet needs

June 26, 2023, BBC: My teen went five years without full-time education

Ellie went without a full time education for five years

Ellie is one of thousands of children in Scotland who needs extra help when they are at school.

The 14-year-old has autism and ADHD, but her mother says her primary school teachers did not know how to cope with her behaviour.

It led to a series of exclusions, a part-time timetable and at one point she was getting just an hour of schooling a day.

For five years from primary five, when she was about nine, Ellie did not receive a full-time education.

Now the only place she can go to school is an hour-and-a-half from her home, and she has had to enrol as a weekly boarder.

It means that in term time Ellie can only spend time with her family at weekends.

"From primary five right up until third year we've literally had little, tiny, tiny bits of education and I wouldn't even say it's education, it's more welfare checks, how are you getting on?" Lisa said….

The National Autistic Society Scotland says children who have autism and ADHD often face exclusions for behaviour perceived as naughty or disruptive….

Ellie has what schools call "additional support needs" or ASN - a wide definition that includes any child or young person who needs a bit of extra help.

It could be a pupil with a disability, dyslexia, someone in the care system, or has mental health problems.

In 2022, more than a third (34.2%) of pupils in Scotland were identified as having additional support needs of some kind.

The National Autistic Society Scotland says children like Ellie are being forced to fail because there are not enough resources in the education system to help them.

Rob Holland wants the education committee at Holyrood to hold an inquiry

Its director Rob Holland says he has heard anecdotal evidence of an increasing number of informal exclusions, where a child could be sent home for the day or put on a part-time timetable….

Official statistics on formal exclusions show that for ASN pupils there were 25.5 exclusions per 1,000 pupils in 2020/21. For children without additional needs, the rate was 5.3 per 1,000 pupils.

A recent survey of members of the Educational Institute of Scotland found that the struggle to respond to ASN needs was the most significant cause of stress in teachers' working lives.

Andrea Bradley of EIS says more resource is needed to help ASN children

Its general secretary Andrea Bradley blamed a chronic under-resourcing of ASN provision, large class sizes and excessive workload.

She said: "60% of our members say the single most important factor in reducing workload for them would be additional support needs provision to the scale that's really required now in classrooms in Scotland, given that 34% of children now have a recognised additional support need.

"Teachers increasingly feel low morale because they don't feel they are able to meet the needs of all of those children - neither are they meeting the needs of the children in the class who don't happen to have additional support needs."
A recent independent report on education for the Scottish government highlighted the problem, saying: "The need for timely attention to, and resourcing for, appropriate ASN provision is now urgent".

The Scottish government said it spent a record high £830m on additional support for learning in 2021/22.

"We have also invested an additional £60m [$76M] since 2019-20 (£15m per year [$19M]) and provide over £11m [$14M] of funding to directly support pupils with complex additional support needs and services to children and families," a spokesperson added.

"The Scottish government is working to develop the support available to autistic learners. However, it is for local councils to determine the most appropriate educational provision, taking account of their legal responsibilities and the individual circumstances of the children and young people in their care.

"This guidance is clear that the wellbeing of a child must take priority and that exclusion should only be used as a last resort, where there is no appropriate alternative."


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