By David Bol

WARNINGS have been issued over a “lost generation” of vulnerable children after it emerged that access to specialist support teachers has continued to drop in Scotland.

New figures show that there is now only one specialist additional support needs (ASN) teachers for every 76 pupils that require one in classrooms across Scotland.

The statistics, obtained by the Scottish Greens, reveals that the number of specialist teachers in 2019 was 2,836 – while the number of pupils with additional needs increased to 215,897.

The Scottish Government says it has invested an extra £15 million this year to help schools cater for pupils’ additional support needs.

The Greens claim that the increasing number of children that each specialist teacher is responsible for is partly driven by the loss of hundreds of ASN teachers since 2010, while the number of pupils with identified needs has grown by almost 150,000.

The number of pupils with additional needs has increased from 69,587 in 2010 to 215,897 in 2019. In Scottish schools, there were 3,887 ASN teachers in 2010, while there are now just 2,836.

Ross Greer, Scottish Green education spokesperson, said: “Thousands of children in Scotland with additional needs are being failed. I have raised this with the government time and again over a number of years, but the picture still is not improving. Specialist teachers are essential to supporting pupils with additional needs but they are gradually disappearing from our schools, at the same time as demand skyrockets.

“We know already that this lockdown is disproportionately hard for young people with additional needs and for their families, with a real risk that the attainment gap will be widened.

“As well as the need for urgent support, the Scottish Government must ensure that when schools do return to normal, it is a new normal where those with additional support needs are given a far fairer opportunity to learn than they have been this past decade.”

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, which campaigns to improve services for vulnerable children, has called for pupils to be given adequate support when they return to schools following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

A spokesperson said: “The comments over a cut in specialist teachers reinforce concerns we have raised for some time now about a potential ‘lost generation’ of vulnerable children and young people.

“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 during lockdown, when the educational attainment gap will inevitably widen, and with evidence of cuts in spending per pupil with ASN and in the number of specialist teachers supporting this group.

“When children and young people with ASN return to school it is vital that we use this as an opportunity to give them the specialist support they need, ensuring that we can address increased inequalities that will have inevitably arisen due to lockdown.”

The Scottish Government said that the number of overall teachers has increased from 51,959 in 2018 to 52,247 in 2019.

A spokesperson said: “All children and young people should receive the support that they need to reach their learning potential and all teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs, not just 'support for learning' staff. Education authorities are responsible for identifying and meeting the additional support needs of their pupils.

“We will continue to provide additional support to education authorities by investing an additional £15 million this year to further enhance capacity in education authorities and schools to respond effectively to the individual needs of children and young people.

“We recognise children and young people with additional support needs may be finding this difficult time particularly challenging. Local authorities are best placed to identify how best to meet the needs of the children and young people in their local area and have been using creative ways of supporting them.”