Campaigners have warned of a 'lost generation of children with additional support needs' in Scotland and called for more funding to be provided to vulnerable children in the wake of government cuts. 

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition said funding for those identified with additional support needs had been cut by 33.9% since 2012-13.

In the same time span there was a doubling in the number of ASN pupils - who currently represent a third of the school population - as well as the loss of 546 ASN teachers.

The SCSC is calling on the Scottish Government to work with local authorities to increase funding to support the needs of vulnerable children and young people, including greater provision of specialist ASN teachers, educational psychologists, behaviour support staff and classroom assistants.

A spokesperson for the SCSC commented: “It is devastating to note cuts in spending supporting those with ASN, and we would urge the Scottish Government to adequately resource the provision of the likes of specialist teachers, educational psychologists and classroom assistants.

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“We are facing a lost generation of children with ASN, and it is vital that they get the care and support they need, when they need it, especially given the impacts of the Covid-19 and cost-of-living crisis. This is also key if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap, as we know that those with ASN are disproportionately drawn from poorer neighbourhoods.

“We are experiencing a mental health emergency, and have also witnessed dramatic increases in classroom disruption, impacting on pupils and teachers alike. This is in part due to increased levels of social, emotional and behavioural difficulties post-lockdown.

“The Scottish Government and local authorities must work together to provide adequately resourced support across Scotland for those children and young people with ASN, representing some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society."

ASN resources and teachers support a broad range of pupils across the country, including those with mental health problems, learning disabilities, autism, dyslexia, and young carers who look after family members. 

During a recent inquiry into additional support for learning, Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth told Holyrood's education committee that she still backs the government policy of mainstreaming for pupils with additional support needs.

The Education and Children's Services Committee heard evidence throughout four sessions, including testimony from union leaders, specialist care providers and local authorities.

The hearings addressed financial, wellbeing and educational concerns, but focused on the question: Should mainstream education continue to be the default option for all students?

"I still believe in mainstreaming," Gilruth told the inquiry, "I think it is the right approach", before recognising that improvements need to be made.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to improving the experiences and outcomes for young people with additional support needs, which we have outlined in our Programme for Government 2023/24.

“While it is for local councils to determine the most appropriate educational provision, spending on additional support for learning reached a record high of £830m in the most recently published figures.

"The Scottish Government also invests an additional £15m per year to help schools respond to the individual needs of children and young people.

“We also provide over £11m in funding to directly support pupils with complex additional support needs and services to children and families.

“Ministers will work with teachers to provide additional professional learning opportunities while seeking work to build on the Additional Support for Learning Action Plan.”

The issue of ASN funding extends beyond the realms of primary and secondary schooling with the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland's largest teaching union, recently warning that cuts at City of Glasgow College will have a 'devastating effect' on students and their families.

Stuart Brown, National Officer for Further Education with EIS said: “Colleges are extremely important to their communities, and one of the most important things they do is cater for people who are perhaps left behind, have struggled at school or just didn’t get what they needed our of the school education system.

“A lot of that can be down to additional support needs and it’s extremely disappointing and, in fact, a bit callous that additional support needs appear to be targeted as an easy cut by college management."