Charity coalition urges local authorities to maintain vital funding for children and young people with additional support needs (ASN).
In a letter to council leaders, the charities emphasise such provision is crucial to ensuring all school pupils get the chance to achieve their full potential.
The children and young people concerned, an estimated 199,000 in total, include those with physical, sensory or learning disabilities in mainstream education, as well as those with health conditions.
‘Without access to specialist teachers and assistants, pupils with additional support needs will not get equal access to education as their peers,’ the letter says. ‘With proper support they can engage with their peers, take part in activities that they may otherwise be excluded from and grow their confidence and independent living skills’.
The signatories to the letter include RNIB Scotland, Down’s Syndrome Scotland, LEAD Scotland, the National Deaf Children’s Society, Scottish Autism and The ALLIANCE.
RNIB Scotland director James Adams said: ‘The expectation now is, rightly, that as far as possible all children and young people should be included in mainstream schools. But in order for those students with additional support needs to be fully included they, and their teachers, need support so that they can get the most out of their education. We are heartened to have the support of charities from across the sector behind this letter.
‘We welcome the Scottish Government announcement of a £15m funding boost for more services and staff for additional support for learning. However, we remain concerned that local government cuts could still put ASN budgets at risk.’
To benchmark current levels of ASN provision, the letter is asking each council how many pupils they currently have with additional support needs; how much money is being allocated to provision this year compared to last year; and how many specialist support teachers and pupil support assistants they employ compared to last year.
‘Money spent on ASN is an investment,’ the letter emphasises. ‘With proper support young people can be best prepared to achieve their full potential and move onto positive destinations.
‘ASN, in its most basic form, allows the pupil to access the core curriculum, but in practice it does so much more than that. ASN can equip pupils to engage with their peers, take part in activities that they may otherwise be excluded from, and grow their confidence and independent living skills’.