School support staff: Scottish government announces £15m funding

Classroom assistant Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption An extra 1,000 pupil support assistants will be recruited

The Scottish government has announced £15m to recruit 1,000 classroom assistants to work with children who have additional support needs (ASN).

Nearly 200,000 schoolchildren across Scotland are identified as having additional support needs.

The cash will be invested over the next year and be allocated in partnership with the local authority body Cosla.

Scotland's largest teaching Union, the EIS, welcomed the cash but called for investment in support teachers.

The money will be used to expand on the 13,636 pupil support assistants already working in Scotland's classrooms.

'The right help'

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "Through listening to the experiences of children and young people with additional support needs, their families and those who support them, we recognise we need to do more to enhance their experience at school.

"Working in partnership with local authorities we will invest an extra £15m in the coming year to increase frontline staff to support learners with additional support needs.

"This will make an significant impact in our classrooms and will help to ensure our young people and their families get the right help at the right time."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There has been a 2.1% increase in the number of pupils needing extra support in the past year

However, unions said schools had seen a drop in the number of teachers available to help pupils with additional support needs.

Family circumstances

In June this year, head teachers in Edinburgh were told there was no spare funding to provide extra classroom support for a rising number of pupils with additional needs.

City of Edinburgh Council said it had recently received applications for an extra 250 pupils with support needs. But a senior official wrote to schools saying there was no money available for a significant increase in the number of support assistants.

In 2018 there were 693,251 pupils in Scotland's local authority primary, secondary and special schools and grant-aided schools.

Of those, 199,065 were identified as having an additional support need, around 28.7 % of all school pupils, and a 2.1% increase on last year.

An additional support need can arise for any reason and may be required to overcome challenges arising from the learning environment, health or disability, family circumstances or social and emotional factors.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Unions welcome the new investment but would like more teachers working with pupils who have additional support needs

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, told BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that extra help in the classroom was one of the main concerns for his members.

He said: "It's very welcome news. We spoke to the deputy first minister just before the summer and we presented him with our report on additional support needs, which highlighted that in most parts of the country ASN requirements are not being met.

"It's been raised as one of the top three items that teachers are concerned about, so this investment is very welcome.

"We would also want to see further investment, particularly around additional support needs teachers, alongside the pupil support assistants."

"Years of austerity have affected the education sector with ASN provision being unfairly cut. Many specialist ASN posts have disappeared which negatively impacts both pupils and staff who have to cope with the additional workload."

The Scottish Children's Services Coalition said the announcement came after years of cuts in the numbers of support staff.

A spokesperson said: "Between 2012 and 2018 the number of specialist teachers supporting those with ASN has decreased from 3,840 to 3,437, a decline of 403, representing a new low.

"There has also been a fall in the number of specialist support staff in key categories such as behaviour support staff and educational psychologists.

"This fall is against the background of an overall increase by 68.7% since 2012 in the number of pupils identified with ASN.

"It is vital that those with ASN get the care and support they need, which is also key if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap."

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