City pupils needing help with English doubles in a decade

RECORD numbers of school pupils in the Capital are needing help with English as an additional language or other special needs.

Wednesday, 15th March 2017, 6:46 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:11 am
Leaders at the Educational Institute of Scotland have warned that teachers are "stressed and struggling". Picture: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Around one in six children is being provided with additional support for learning (ASL) – a total of 7417 pupils from a total school roll of approximately 46,000.

More than twice as many children require help with their English language skills than ten years ago – as the tally soared from 2542 to 5941.

The council said it had invested a record £37 million in ASL this year, but teaching unions warned of staff cuts and increasing workloads.

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The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) previously claimed that the number of specialist teachers in the city’s mainstream schools had dropped by 18 per cent over the past few years.

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said: “There is also an under-valuing of ASN [additional support needs] teachers’ skills and experience and the EIS has heard reports that ASN staff are often being used as supply cover. ASN teachers are reporting a lack of equipment and resources, which makes their day-to-day work more difficult. Some schools no longer have any one-to-one support for pupils with ASN, or have no specialist services.

“ASN teachers are stressed and struggling due to the cuts and the inclusive educational environment we all support is being stretched to the limit.”

Resources for special schools are also continuing to tighten, with the approved 2016-17 council budget giving them £18.2m – a cut of £300,000 from the previous year.

The number of pupils provided with support for autism-related difficulties such as learning, language and communication more than trebled from 199 in 2006-7 to 710 in 2015-16.

Councillor Cammy Day, the city’s education, children and families leader, said: “The council is acutely aware of the increasing number of pupils with additional support needs which is why we invested a record £37m this year in additional support for learning.”

Mr Day said the council was “committed” to providing high quality support and pointed to a recent whole school approach taken at St David’s Primary School after it saw “significant” increases in the number of pupils with English as an additional language.

He added: “This led to a dramatic improvement in reading attainment as well as creating a more inclusive culture which increased parental engagement and pupil confidence .

“We regularly review our services to make sure they adapt to new demands and we will continue to do this to ensure that the needs of those children with additional support are met.”