School Cutbacks Affect Special Needs Education

28 December 2016, 09:14 | Updated: 28 December 2016, 10:18

school classroom

Scotland's largest teaching union has warned the ability to teach children with additional support needs in mainstream schools is under threat.

The Educational Institute of Scotland says it supports the principle of inclusive education but cutbacks mean some ASN teachers fear it is being done "on the cheap''.

Figures published last year showed ASN teacher numbers had fallen 13% between 2010 and 2014 to 2,963 while overall teachers numbers fell 2.3% to 50,814 in the same period.

ASN teacher numbers dropped in 22 out of Scotland's 33 local authorities.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "Members working with pupils with additional support needs have reported that the current climate is extremely challenging.

"Cuts to ASN teacher numbers have meant these teachers having very high workloads and feeling unable to meet pupils' needs as they would wish to.

"There is also an undervaluing of ASN teachers' skills and experience and the EIS has heard reports that ASN staff are often being used as supply cover - especially as the national difficulty in securing supply teachers has worsened.

"We are starting to see ASN roles de-professionalised and assumptions made that this is work that any teacher can do.

"ASN teachers are reporting a lack of equipment and resources, which makes their day-to-day work more difficult. Some schools no longer have any one-to-one support for pupils with ASN, or have no specialist services.

"ASN teachers are stressed and struggling due to the cuts and the inclusive educational environment we all support is being stretched to the limit.

"Those who are making these cuts should be aware of the damage they are causing.''

The union said members of its ASN Network for teacher support have described the current approach as "mainstreaming on the cheap''.

Labour's education spokesman Iain Gray said: "This is an important intervention from the trade union representing Scotland's teachers and should act as a wake-up call for Nationalist ministers.

"`Like all staff working in our schools, additional support needs teachers are feeling the brunt of a decade of SNP cuts and mismanagement.

"Additional support needs teachers require support and extra resources so they can provide the best education for some of our most vulnerable young people, yet the SNP's budget will cut a further £327 million from schools and other local services next year.''

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We want all children and young people to receive the support that they need to achieve their full learning potential.

"The Additional Support for Learning Act places education authorities under duties to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils.

"The decisions about employment of support staff are the responsibility of individual education authorities, in light of their priorities and local circumstances, and their duties under the ASL Act.

"We have a positive picture of children with additional support needs consistently achieving more each year.

"Our most recent statistics and report to Parliament on the implementation of the legislation indicates that attainment levels continue to improve.

"Children and young people should learn in the environment which best suits their needs, whether that is in a mainstream or special school setting.

"What is key is meeting the individual needs of children and young people and ensuring that we get it right for every child.''