SOME of Scotland's most vulnerable pupils are facing a postcode lottery over the levels of support they receive for conditions such as autism.

New figures show a significant difference in the proportion of pupils with complex difficulties being given a co-ordinated support plan (CSP).

While not all children with additional support needs require a CSP it has an important status because it requires councils ensure pupils receive appropriate support.

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The figures show that in Renfrewshire 5.3 per cent of the pupil population have a CSP compared to 0.1 per cent in Falkirk and East Ayrshire.

An alliance of private and charitable providers of services to vulnerable children are now calling on the Scottish Government to urgently review how local authorities support pupils with complex needs.

The concerns emerged at a time when the number of pupils with additional needs has increased by more than 55 per cent since 2012, from 118,000 to 183,000. The current figure represents more than a quarter of the overall pupil population.

Over the same period the number of teachers trained to support such pupils fell from 3,248 to 2,733 - a decline of 16 per cent.

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A spokesman for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition said: "It is clearly of concern that we are experiencing a decline in the use of CSPs, which is to support those with the most complex needs. This is despite an increase in the numbers of those requiring such support.

“The disparity in those with a CSP between those in the least and most deprived areas is also worrying, as if we are to close the educational gap, it is key that we target the resourcing to achieve those on those in the most deprived communities.

"We are also concerned about the disparities that exist between local authorities on such support, which clearly raises concerns about how such a policy is being implemented and a lack of standardisation of who is identified."

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Last month a conference heard parents were being left to fend for themselves in the fight to get extra school support for vulnerable pupils.

Professor Sheila Riddell, from Edinburgh University’s centre for research on inclusion, said the reduction in the proportion of pupils being given statutory help meant "pushy" middle class parents were more likely to secure a CSP.

She said: "We are being told in local authorities that the policy now is not to open them anymore unless parents demand them.

"This is putting the onus on the parent, or possibly even the child, to demand a document that they may not know about rather than the local authorities doing what they are legally obliged to do which is assess whether the child needs one.”

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.

Additional Support Needs 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. It can also include gifted children.

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

Previous research has shown pupils from less advantaged backgrounds are more likely to be identified as having ASN, but are less likely to have a CSP.

The suggested is that this is because middle class parents have the resources and resilience to pursue a CSP even when councils were resistant.