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The parents fighting for Additional Support schools

By Jamie McIvor
BBC Scotland education correspondent

media captionKeiran Cruden says he was constantly sent out of class at his mainstream primary school

For children who require additional help and support at school, education can sometimes be a challenge.

For many years, the presumption has been to keep children in mainstream schools whenever possible.

The number of children classed as having additional support needs (ASN) has gone up dramatically in recent years while the number of specialist support teachers has dropped.

The term additional support needs covers anything from a physical disability or dyslexia - to a child who needs some extra support after a family bereavement.

But it also includes children who may have serious behavioural or emotional issues - or autism.

Some families face a battle to send their children to a specialist facility such as Falkland House School in Fife.

image captionFalkland House School helps boys with autism, ADHD, Tourette's and social, emotional or behavioural challenges

Kieran Cruden, 17, is one of the school's success stories.

He's a confident, smart, articulate teenager.

Kieran spent six years at the school, which specialises in helping boys with autism, ADHD, Tourette's and social, emotional or behavioural challenges.

He is now at college and aspiring to university.

It's hard to imagine how different his life was when he was at his local primary school.

Kieran was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder.

He says: "When I was in primary school I was in my own shell. I didn't have many friends but now I have come here and I've opened up. I've made a lot more friends here and at home.

"I was getting sent out a lot so it did not exactly help me education-wise. It didn't make me happy getting sent out all the time.

"Here you get the personal attention you need. In mainstream schools it's like 20 people in a classroom. You don't really get that much help specifically to you.

"When I came here I had specific attention towards me and getting what I needed to do done."

image captionKeiran's mother had a battle to get her son out of a mainstream school

His mother said: "It has made a big difference. We knew learning was in their for him. For the six years of mainstream school he hadn't learned anything at all. He was either at home or in a teacher's office. He was hardly in a classroom at all.

"Sometimes things would escalate in the morning and he would be sent home, so he didn't learn anything the whole six years he was there. He couldn't even read or write."

She says she had a battle getting him out of mainstream schooling.

"I think the authorities would have been happy for him to struggle in secondary school as well," she says.

A headteacher feared Kieran would struggle badly at his local secondary school and possibly end up on the scrapheap.

They had to fight to get their local authority to agree to let him go to Falkland House.

image captionKenny Graham from Falkland House is also the spokesman for the Scottish Children's Services Coalition

Kenny Graham from Falkland House is also the spokesman for the Scottish Children's Services Coalition.

He says: "We do believe there are quite marked variations in relation to the quality of the services the children receive across the country and that is borne out by the statistics that show great variations in relation to recording and reporting."

Additional Support Needs is a broad brush term.

It covers everything from conditions like dyslexia, to physical difficulties and Autism.

It even includes children who need short term support - maybe because of bullying or emotional stress if their parents are divorcing.

The broad definition explains why nearly a quarter of schoolchildren are classed as needing additional support.

For many years, the presumption has been to support children with additional needs in mainstream schools.

Going to a specialist facility, can be a last resort.

Additional Support Needs - the numbers

95% of pupils identified with ASN are in mainstream schools.

The number of pupils identified with ASN in local authority primary and secondary schools increased by 78% between 2011 and 2016 from from 91,550 to 163,594 (24.1% of pupils).

The number of ASN teachers fell by 20% over the same period from 2,252 to 1,799.

Analysis also shows that the number of support staff in local authority primary and secondary schools dropped by 8% between 2011 and 2016, from 19,661 to 17,923.10.

Financial pressures

Another woman whose son, who has Asperger's, and is currently a pupil at Falkland House, says he was desperately unhappy at his local primary school.

Again, she faced a battle with her local authority,

She says her son has Asperger's and was desperately unhappy at his local primary school.

"He was admitted into Yorkhill, the child and family psychiatry unit," she says.

"It was an emergency admission because things got that extreme that he didn't want to be in this world any more. He was admitted in there and he was in there for four months."

The local authority were keen to keep him at his local school.

The mother believes cuts in support staff - made it harder for her son to stay there.

And also fears financial pressures - were one reason the council was so keen on keeping him in a mainstream school.

She says: "They disbanded the disability team within social work and generic social workers took over, who didn't have an understanding of his Tourette's and his Asperger's.

"They failed him."

Few would suggest that it is not right to try to keep children in mainstream schools whenever possible.

The issue is whether resources are available. The number of specialist ASN teachers and support staff fell over the past five years - despite a 78% rise in the number of children classed as requiring additional support.

Guidance talks of getting it right for every child.

For some children - that may mean leaving a mainstream school

The questions are whether some children may be suffering - because of a reluctance to do this.

And whether all mainstream schools and teachers have the resources and knowledge to help.

Related Topics

  • Scotland Education
  • ADHD
  • Autism
  • Falkland
  • Children
  • Tourette's syndrome

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