Rise in Falkirk pupils with additional support needs attending mainstream schools

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Falkirk district has seen a significant rise in the number of pupils with additional support needs (ASN) who attend mainstream primary schools since 2012.

The latest figures show seven years ago that nine per cent of pupils in mainstream primaries had ASN and this has risen to 22.7 per cent in 2018.

But despite this increase, the region lies below the national average of 25.19 per cent.

The situation looks similar in the district’s secondary schools with the numbers rising from 11.9 per cent of pupils having ASN in mainstream schools in 2012 to 29.8 per cent in 2018.

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These local increases come as figures show there are more children being registered as having ASN resulting in a 69 per cent rise nationally during this period.

A spokesman for Falkirk Council explained there were a number of factors contributing to the rise in 
pupils recorded as having ASN, and the local authority has invested a significant amount of cash into improving the support available to them.

He said: “We have the fifth proportionately highest spend on ASN and spend above the national average, across a very wide range of provisions.

“The data gathering variation in the survey is worth noting as this will significantly skew the overall results across Scotland.

“We have seen a rise in the total percentage of pupils recorded as having ASN due to a number of factors including: clarification of the definition of ASN nationally and schools reviewing their pupil 
populations; greater awareness across schools of a wide range of ASN factors which impact on a child or young person to engage with learning; and improvements in assessments to support the identification of strategies and interventions.”

The sharp rise across Scotland as a whole comes following a drive for greater inclusion for those with ASN in mainstream education.

It’s a completely different picture to that in England where the number of children with special educational needs has fallen by a quarter since 2012.

In Scotland there has been a 73.1 per cent rise in the number of children with ASN in mainstream schools during this period, although there are big variations by council area.

However, despite this the number of youngsters going to special schools hasn’t fallen by much – it has only gone down by 1.9 per cent since 2012.

This is compared to an increase of nearly a third in England.

In 2018, a quarter of all children in Scotland’s mainstream primary schools had ASN.

This is a rise from 16.9 per cent in 2012.

While in the same year almost a third of all children in mainstream secondary schools had ASN – nearly double the proportion in 2012, when 16.5 per cent of children in mainstream secondaries had ASN.

Local Government Financial Statistics for 2017-18 showed local authorities spent £628m on additional support for learning – increasing from £610m in 2016-17.

However, it appears schools across the country are still struggling to support children with additional needs.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “All children and young people should receive the support that they need to reach their learning potential and all teachers provide support to pupils with additional 
support needs, not just ‘support for learning’ staff.”

The spokesperson said councils made decisions about resources, teaching and staff.

They added: “Between 2012 and 2018 pupil support assistant numbers grew by 12 per cent, home-school link worker numbers increased by 98 per cent to 356 and school nurse or other medical posts rose 22 per cent.

“New online resources have been created to support school staff and guidance on the presumption to include ASN pupils in mainstream education has been updated.”

New laws which were introduced five years ago state that children with ASN should usually be given a place in mainstream classes.