The Scottish Government has been urged to increase funding for children with additional support needs (ASN) as the number of pupils has again increased.
Official statistics show the number of ASN pupils increased from 215,897 to 226,838 between 2019 and 2020, a jump of 1.4%.
The proportion of ASN pupils among the student population has also increased to 32.3% from 30.9%.
A review released earlier this year into ASN education by Professor Angela Morgan repeatedly referenced the “rationing” of resources in the sector, adding “there has been a strength of concern expressed to the review about the loss of specialist expertise and practice experience through reductions and changes in career pathways as well as due to resource pressures”.
According to a report published alongside the statistics, there has been a “marked” increase in the number of ASN pupils since 2010, which can be attributed “in part to continued improvements in recording”.
Scottish Government statistics from 2012, the earliest such figures available, show the number of ASN pupils has almost doubled from 118,034 – a 92.2% increase.
In light of the figures, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) has pushed the Scottish Government to increase its funding for ASN pupils.
A spokesman for the group said: “While it is promising that this increase tells us that more young people with ASN are being identified, it is against a worrying background of damaging cuts to services.
“Ensuring the adequate provision of educational support for children young people with ASN is critical, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic and the damaging impact this will have on them.
“We are committed to the principle of inclusive education and to the policy of educating young people with ASN in mainstream classes where this is the most appropriate environment for their learning.
“However, we have major concerns over a lack of resources and specialist staff to support these children and young people. This clearly has an impact not only on the individuals concerned but also on their peers and teachers.”
The spokesman called for local and national government to work with the private and third sectors to provide “necessary resourcing”.
He added: “The cost to society in the long term if adequate resourcing is not provided will far outweigh any potential savings made today.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “All children and young people should receive the support that they need to reach their learning potential and all teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs, not just ‘support for learning’ staff.
“Councils are responsible for identifying and meeting the additional support needs of their pupils.
“The independently chaired review of the implementation of additional support for learning, led by Angela Morgan, was published in June. It set a clear direction in how we can continue to build on progress in this area.”
The Scottish Government pledged an extra £15 million per year to respond “to the individual needs of children and young people”.
The comments come as teaching union EIS released a briefing paper based on the views of teachers in special education settings during the coronavirus pandemic.
One teacher claimed it is “impossible” for them to do their job well while socially distancing from pupils, adding: “The health & safety advice which is given across the school doesn’t seem to apply to us – our biggest protection is crossing our fingers.”
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan called for “sufficient bespoke mitigations” to be put in place for teachers in ASN settings, taking into account “the unique circumstances” of the sector.