THE NUMBER of specialist teachers supporting children requiring extra support in Scottish schools has slumped as the number of some of the nation's most vulnerable pupils has soared.

New figures reveal that number of specialist teachers supporting those with additional support needs (ASN) in all Scottish schools has dropped by 376 (10%) from 3,840 in 2012 to 3,464 last year.

The Scottish Children's Services Coalition is concerned that that is against a background of an 82.9% rise in the number of pupils identified with ASN, from 118,034 to a new high of 215,897 in 2019. HeraldScotland:

The pupils gaining support can range from having a physical disability and communication difficulties to being affected by bullying, autism, dyslexia and mental health problems It comes a week after the Herald revealed that pupils with ASN had been hit with a "highly alarming" 23.2% cut to their services over six year and a postcode lottery of financial support.

The spend has slumped from £4,276 in 2012/13 to £3,286 in 2018/19.

The SCSC has raised concerns about the slump in teachers across the country and is campaigning for a Scottish Government review over the level of support for ASN pupils.

It wants greater resourcing from both the Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure that those with ASN in Scotland’s schools, who disproportionately come from lower income families and areas of deprivation, are getting the care and support that they need.

READ MORE: Vulnerable youngsters in Scotland hit with postcode lottery of financial support

It has also raised concerns about the "effectiveness of a presumption that pupils are educated in a mainstream educational environment unless exceptional circumstances apply.

An SCSC spokesman said: “It is vital that those with ASN get the care and support they need, especially during and as we come out of the current Covid-19 crisis. This is also key if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap as we know that those with ASN disproportionately come from lower income families and areas of deprivation. Such a situation is clearly challenging in an environment of austerity and evidence of cuts in spending per pupil with ASN and in the number of specialist teachers supporting this group."

The SCSC believes a symptom of cuts to ASN spending has led to falling attainments levels.

“While we also support the presumption of mainstreaming, which means that all children and young people are educated in a mainstream educational environment unless exceptional circumstances apply, it is clearly difficult to see how this is functioning properly for all those with ASN given this fall in specialist support and increase in the number of those identified with conditions such as autism and mental health problems," said the spokesman.

“The Scottish Government and local authorities need to work together to provide the necessary resourcing to address the needs of those children and young people with ASN, who represent some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society."

READ MORE: Additional support needs pupils and adult social care hit hardest in 'draconian' council cuts

Spending on ASN pupils across local authorities ranges from £2,289, £2,308 and £2,506 per pupil in Aberdeenshire, Scottish Borders and the City of Edinburgh to £5,655, £5,054, £4,741 per pupil in Shetland, Orkney and Midlothian.

ASN pupils were among those worst hit by “draconian” savings on services as cash-strapped local authorities looked to fill a £300 million budget black hole.

Of 16 local authorities which divulged their spending plans at the start of March, all but three are either planning or have made cuts affecting children with additional needs.

Highland Council had been undergoing the biggest changes to ASN and early intervention so far among the councils – with up to £1.96m being saved next year.

The Scottish Government says it has invested £15 million to recruit 1,000 extra pupil support assistants to work with children with additional support needs. This will build on the pupil support assistants already working in Scotland’s classrooms.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We want all children and young people to get the support they need to reach their full learning potential. All teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs, not just 'support for learning' teachers.

“Education authorities are responsible for identifying and meeting the additional support needs of their pupils. This includes the employment and provision of appropriate resources, including teaching and support staff, to meet children’s needs."

It said education authorities and other agencies have duties under the Additional Support for Learning Act 2004 to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils.