John Swinney, Deputy First Minister in the Scottish Government has announced new guidance for pupils with additional needs and how teachers can best support them.
This comes amidst concerns from across Scotland that local authority cut backs are having a disproportionate effect on pupils with additional needs. Cut backs and shortages of staff have particularly affected psychological services, language specialists and support staff.
A 2017 survey for the trade union UNISON, showed that there were 1,841 less support staff in Scottish schools than in 2010.
The Education (Additional Support for Learning) Scotland Act 2004 (as amended) states that a child or young person has an additional support need where they need additional support in order to overcome barriers and benefit from school education. The act also states that education authorities must have arrangements in place to identify pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN) and from among them, those who may require a specific support plan. Education authorities must also be able to identify the reason(s) that additional support is needed.
There are 51,138 teachers in publicly funded schools in Scotland compared to 50,592 in 2017. Orkney Islands Council employs 250 teachers with one of the lowest pupil teacher ratios at 11:1, however, that has been increasing year on year since 2011.
The Scottish Government recently agreed an enhanced pay settlement with the teachers’ union the EIS. Support staff, who work with pupils with additional needs in class time and at break/lunch/after school clubs, are not paid at the same rate as teaching staff. They had already settled for a much lesser pay award. Teacher’s Pay Award Re-opens Demands By Another Union Representing Council Workers
The new guidance produced by the Scottish Government includes more advice to ensure better mainstreaming of pupils with additional needs and a definition of ‘inclusion’.
‘Inclusive education in Scotland starts from the belief that education is a human right and the foundation for a more just society. An inclusive approach which recognises diversity and holds the ambition that all children and young people are enabled to achieve to their fullest potential is the cornerstone to achieve equity and excellence in education for all of our children and young people.’
- All children and young people should have their voices heard in decisions about their education. Including decisions on where they learn
- All children and young people will have the opportunity to participate and engage as fully as possible in all aspects of school or early learning and childcare life, including trips and extracurricular activity
- All children and young people should be enabled and supported to participate in their learning
- Children and young people with additional support needs, who are aged
12-15, also have extended rights within the ASL framework to use rights on their own behalf to affect decisions made about them
John Swinney said:
“Mainstreaming is a central pillar of our inclusive approach to education and the introduction of a Scottish definition of inclusion for the first time reinforces our commitment to Getting it Right for Every Child.”
“Teachers and local authorities are key partners in delivering this approach and ensuring every child has the most suitable learning environment for their needs. This guidance provides improved methods to assess needs, and help young people and signposts actions to further support inclusion, informed by the latest research.”
Jan Savage, ENABLE Scotland Director of External Affairs, said:
“We have worked closely with the Scottish Government to develop this new guidance on the presumption of mainstreaming, and warmly welcome its focus on equitable opportunities for every pupil who has a learning disability to participate fully in all aspects of school life.
“We are encouraged that it is complemented by training resources for the education workforce and a commitment to continue to listen to and learn from the voices of experience as we take the next steps on the journey to inclusion for every pupil.”
The number of pupils identified has having additional support needs has increased ‘markedly’ since 2010 – 199,065 – 28.7% of all pupils. Some pupils will need support throughout their education but most pupils will require it at some time. This surge in pupils who require additional support comes at the same time as drastic cuts to support staffing levels. The new guidance produced by the Scottish Government is aimed at addressing teachers’ worries about increased workload by offering them online training.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame