Nearly two in three parents of children with autism and additional support needs feel their child had not reached their “fullest potential” in school, a new survey has revealed.
A total of 147 responses were gathered from parents as part of an online survey created by parent/carer support group Autism and Other Conditions Aberdeen.
Dr Alison Murray, secretary of the group, presented the survey’s findings to members of Aberdeen City Council’s education committee yesterday.
She said the council “urgently needs” to develop a policy that ensures children with additional support needs receive an education that allows them to achieve their “fullest potential”.
She added: “The education of children with additional support needs (ASN) must be directed towards them reaching their fullest potential, yet only 21% of parents thought they were achieving this.
“Nearly two in three parents did not feel their child was reaching their full potential in school.
“When we asked parents to describe their experience of their child’s education, the most commonly used words were frustrating, stressful and poor.”
Meanwhile, the findings of the survey also showed more than 27% of parents surveyed said their child did not attend school full time over the last year, with more than 12% attending half the time or less.
A total of 95 survey responses were from parents of children with autism, accounting for almost 20% of children with autism in mainstream schools in Aberdeen.
Dr Murray added: “Reasons given include part-time timetables. Part-time timetables should not be used for more than six weeks and should always have a plan to get the child back to full-time education.
“However, part-time attendance was reported as lasting up to seven years, with an average time of 14 months in primary school and one year in secondary schools.”
The school environment was considered poor or very poor at meeting their child’s needs in 36% of cases, and in 28% of cases, spaces children accessed away from their class due to their additional support needs did not meet their needs either.Size, noise, distractions and embarrassment were all given as reasons why these spaces were deemed unsuitable by the parents surveyed.
The findings of the survey also reveal more than 55% of children experienced bullying within the last year, with a quarter of children reported as not having friends in school.
One in five children missed out on school trips due to lack of support or because the school asked them not to attend and a further 7% were only able to go because parents accompanied them.
The results showed the council has a “lot of work to do” to develop an inclusive practice in schools, the secretary of the group told councillors.
She claimed the ability to provide an inclusive service had been “hampered” by apparent problems with staff retention within the educational psychologist service, which has led to a halving of posts in just a couple of years, and called for a “rapid external investigation” to be held into the causes of this.
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Evening Express newsletter
It was previously revealed that the numbers of educational psychologists at the local authority has dropped from around 23 full-time posts a few years ago to 19.6 in 2017-18, then to 18.6 in 2018-19, with a budget for 15.4 now, of which only 9.8 posts are filled.
The group is also supportive of a policy being “urgently” developed that ensures children with additional support needs receive education in a manner that allows them to achieve the fullest possible social integration and individual development.
Eleanor Sheppard, the city council’s chief education officer, admitted the council has had “challenges” around teaching staff and having a “constant provision of support for learning”.
She confirmed the local authority has a statutory requirement to have a policy but said she couldn’t answer why there is not one in place.
Ms Sheppard added: “We realised we don’t have one and have done a great deal of work to scope out a draft.
“That will have to be subject to a significant amount of consultation.
“We’re trying to rectify that as quickly as we can.”