Charities call for urgent action in budget for disabled pupils

Press Release | 04/02/2020

A call for urgent action in the Scottish Government’s budget to provide better support for disabled pupils has been made by charities working with pupils with additional support needs. The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, the National Deaf Children’s Society, the National Autistic Society Scotland, and Royal Blind are campaigning for improved access to specialist support.

The charities are calling for any Barnett consequentials resulting from an extra £700 million for pupils with special education needs announced by the UK Government in the Spending Review in September to form part of an increase in additional support needs funding for pupils in Scotland. This could result in extra funds of almost £70 million for pupils with additional support needs in Scotland’s schools.  

Official figures published last year showed the number of Scottish pupils with additional support needs has risen by nearly 70% since 2012. Research by the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition shows that average spending by local authorities on additional support needs has fallen by £889 per pupil over the same period, a 26.1% real terms cut.

The charities have welcomed an additional £15 million announced by the Scottish Government last September for pupil support assistants for children with additional support needs and are now calling for further action in this budget.

Mark O’Donnell, Chief Executive of Royal Blind said:

“Too many pupils with additional support needs are missing out on the specialist support they require because of budget cuts at a time of increasing need.  The number of pupils with visual impairment has more than doubled since 2010 to over 4,500 pupils, yet the number of specialist teachers for blind and partially sighted pupils has fallen. We know pupils with other additional support needs face the same challenges. That is why we have joined with other charities who work with these pupils and why we are calling for change in this budget.”

Nick Ward, Director of National Autistic Society Scotland said:

“Through our Education Rights Service we hear daily from families whose autistic children are sadly not getting the level of support needed to be fully included in school.  While official figures show the number of Scottish pupils with Additional Support Needs has risen substantially, funding has not kept pace. The Government must urgently address this otherwise we fear that more autistic children and young people will miss out on an education that so many of us take for granted.”

Alasdair O'Hara, Head of Policy and Influencing in Scotland for the National Deaf Children's Society said:

“In recent years we’ve seen huge pressure on the support system deaf children rely on in Scotland. We’ve seen their specialist teachers cut back,  teacher’s case-loads increase, and unsurprisingly, deaf pupils grades have suffered and they continue to fall way behind their hearing friends at school. It doesn’t have to be this way, and this investment from the Scottish Government could transform the lives of our deaf children, and make sure no deaf child is left behind.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition said:

“While the numbers of those with additional support needs have risen by more than 82 per cent since 2012, amounting to just under a third of the pupil population, it is alarming that spend per pupil with ASN has fallen by more than 26 per cent over this same period.

“It is vital that those with ASN get the care and support they need in order to give them the best possible start in life and close the educational attainment gap. This is clearly challenging in an environment of austerity, however, the cost to society in the long term if adequate resourcing is not provided will far outweigh any potential savings made today.”