THE number of specialist teachers trained to support vulnerable pupils has slumped to a new low, according to official figures.

Between 2012 and 2017 the number of teachers trained to support pupils with additional support needs such as dyslexia and autism fell from 3,248 to 2,733 - a decline of 16 per cent.

This fall comes despite the fact the number of pupils identified with additional support needs has increased by more than 55 per cent since 2012, from 118,000 to 183,000.

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The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), a group of private and charitable organisations who work with vulnerable children, called for more resources.

A coalition spokesman said: “What is key is that we provide those requiring it with the care and support that they need.

“This is clearly difficult in an environment of austerity and budget cuts, with evidence of cuts in the number of specialist teachers.

“While we also support the presumption that all children are educated in a mainstream educational environment it is clearly difficult to see how this is functioning properly given this fall.”

Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, also attacked the decline.

He said: “The plummeting number of additional support teachers under the SNP is a national disgrace.

“A government that has preached for years that education is the top priority has systematically cut off opportunities for vulnerable young people.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said all teachers were expected to provide support for vulnerable pupils, not just those labelled “support for learning” staff.

He added: “Councils spent £610 million on additional support for learning in the most recent financial year which is a 2.3 per cent increase in real terms.

“We remain committed to maintaining teacher numbers nationally, and ensuring that we have the right number of teachers, with the right skills, in the right places, to educate our young people.”

Under the 2004 Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act a statutory duty is placed on councils to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs (ASN) of their pupils.

ASN covers pupils with a range of issues including learning disabilities, dyslexia, a visual or hearing impairment, language or speech disorders, autism and social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

In May 2016 a poll by the ENABLE Scotland charity found 70 per cent of ASN pupils said they lacked support while 94 per cent of parents felt schools were not getting enough resources.