Cash pledge to support special needs kids

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More teachers and more classroom space will be found to help pupils with additional support needs.

The demand for ASN provision in Falkirk’s primary and secondary schools is on the rise.

Now an extra £650,000 is to be invested over the next two years to increase capacity and meet the long-term needs of children with Autism or a learning disability.

Three new classrooms at Ladeside Primary will provide an extra 18 places from August taking the roll up to 48 and two more at Kinnaird Primary’s Thistle Wing annex in the current Carrongrange School will increase capacity there from 42 to 54.

The current provision at Grangemouth High School’s additional support centre and Denny High’s Northfield Unit which together can look after 60 young people will each offer eight more places after the summer holidays.

The full time equivalent of 6.4 teachers, ten support for learning assistants and two principal teachers for the primaries will be needed.

Falkirk Council’s education executive was told steps have to be taken now to meet the challenges posed by children living with complex factors including significant health difficulties and autism.

At the moment there are over 300 children registered in Falkirk schools with autistic spectrum disorder as their Additional Support Need and nearly 500 with learning disability listed as their ASN.

But director of children’s services Robert Naylor warned: “The increasing demand for ASN provision is a national and international phenomenon. The number of people in the population who have Autism has recently been estimated between 2.2 and three per cent when in 2009 it was one per cent.

“This means we can anticipate approximately 2.5 per cent of Falkirk’s school children, or 625 children, will be expected to meet the criteria for diagnosis. Approximately 40 per cent of this group will also have a significant learning difficulty.

“The council will continue to face increasing demand for specialist placements in its primary and secondary schools. To address this, further capacity is required to enable the needs of these young people to be met locally.

“The proposed increase will meet demand in the primary sector for two years and secondary sector for one year. This will allow the service time to consider how best to adopt a strategic position that will address the expected growth within this very challenging sector of educational provision and additional needs support in future years.”

The executive agreed the recommendations, but Councillor Tom Coleman said: “This is a short term solution. We will have to react to an increase in numbers that is effectively out of our control.”