PUPILS with additional needs are not getting the support they require, Tories have claimed, as figures show a decline in specialised teachers across Lothian while the number of youngsters needing help has increased.
Between 2012 and 2017, the total number of teachers who specialised in learning support and additional support needs (ASN) in primary schools dropped from 112 to 62. In secondary schools, it fell from 151 to 109.
Pupils assessed as having additional needs jumped from 8099 to 13653 in primary schools and from 6393 to 11,707 in secondaries.
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “Education is so important for a young person’s development and anyone who requires help in school should get it. It is clear, however, that not every student in Lothian will be getting the support that they need.
“There is a lot of good work going on to identify students with additional needs, but if you’re identifying them and there’s no one to help them it’s not going to improve their situation.
“One of my concerns is that the recruitment of individuals to work in ASN services has not been prioritised. With teacher shortages as they are, councils just want people in the classroom teaching.”
Edinburgh education convener Ian Perry said the council had increased funding every year to provide additional staff and resources despite the spending squeeze on local authorities.
He said: “The council is acutely aware of the increasing number of pupils with additional support needs and is committed to providing them with the high quality support they require. We take an inclusive approach in our schools by recognising that supporting these pupils is the role of all staff in our schools, not just specialist teachers.
“We made a commitment to increase the number of pupil support assistants by 50 posts for the start of the 2020/21 session and are on track to achieve this.”
Midlothian Council’s cabinet member for education, Jim Muirhead, said his council’s budget would increase to reflect demand, much of which was fuelled by the fact the county has the fastest growing population in Scotland.
“This money is being used to recruit a range of staff to ensure we can support our most vulnerable children and young people.”
An East Lothian Council spokeswoman said the figures quoted did not reflect the range of provision in its schools. She added: “We work with pupils, their families and schools to put in place measures that will best meet their needs. This can range from emotional support, assistive technology to more intensive one-to-one work. We are committed to ensuring all our children and young people have access to a high quality education and learning experience.”
West Lothian Council said the drop in teachers with a specialised learning support qualification did not mean the teachers who were working with ASN pupils were not skilled to do so. A spokesman said: “The qualification is not mandatory. We have a robust approach to the identification of additional learning needs, and provide appropriate levels of support.”