THE number of vulnerable pupils in Scottish schools has reached a record high at a time of cuts to support services, new figures show.

Statistics from the Scottish Government show the number of pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN) is 183,491.

The figure represents more than a quarter of the overall pupil population and an increase of over 55 per cent since 2012.

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The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, which represents independent providers of special needs education, said council spending on ASN had been slashed in recent years.

A coalition spokesman said: “It is promising that this increase tells us more young people with ASN are being identified, but it comes against a worrying background of cuts.

“The cost to society if investment is not increased will hinder any efforts to close the educational attainment gap.”

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservative Party, described the statistics as “alarming”.

She said: “This comes at a time when there are significant pressures on teachers with specialist skills.”

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 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 last year 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.

The survey, of more than 250 parents and children, also found 85 per cent of young people with learning disabilities said they were excluded from opportunities offered to other pupils.