Additional support needs - inadequate support impacting on some children’s education


The policy of an inclusive education for children with additional support needs is not functioning properly in many local authority areas due to a lack of support for these children. This is the conclusion of a report issued today (15 May 2017) by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee.

With the recorded number of children with additional support needs more than doubling since 2010, the Committee looked at the support available for children with additional support needs within the mainstream education system. It found that a lack of staff and coordinated support meant that many children are struggling to achieve within the Scottish school system.

The Committee has today called on the Scottish Government to undertake a financial review as a basis to start discussions with local authorities on future funding. It also wants the Government to look at any cultural barriers in some council areas to the policy of inclusion.

The report has also asked for a Government review looking at the experiences of those with additional support needs to find out how widespread concerns raised by parents are. Over 100 parents from across Scotland raised concerns in submissions to the Committee with some harrowing first hand experiences.

James Dornan MSP, Convener of the Education and Skills Committee said:

“The Committee was overwhelmed with the response it got from parents, teachers and those who live and work with children with additional support needs. There is still widespread support for the policy of inclusion and we also heard about the positive difference support can make to children.

“But we also heard about what can happen when there is not the staff and support to help those most in need. For example there is a very real concern that some children feel more excluded in a mainstream school setting than they may have done in a special school.”

The Committee’s report also states that:

  • Parents often have to fight for the rights of their children “every step of the way” in order to get additional support for them in schools. Parents from areas of deprivation have lower chances of ensuring their children get the support they need. The Committee is concerned this could ultimately widen the attainment gap and so is calling for more funding for advocacy services amongst other recommendations.
  • The Committee is also concerned a lack of support for those with additional support needs could impact on the education of children without additional support needs. This could be due to the increased pressure on teachers to support specific needs as well as teaching classes other pupils, following a reduction in additional support needs staff in schools.
  • The Committee considers that the effective inclusion of children with additional support needs is integral to the success of Getting it Right for Every Child and highlights its findings to the Government in that context.


A person has ‘additional support needs’ if for whatever reason, they are unlikely to be able to benefit from school education without additional support. This is a very broad definition and includes, for example, very able children and those who may need temporary additional support due to family circumstances such as bereavement.

Section 15 of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools Etc Act 2000 provides a legal presumption that children will be educated in mainstream schools unless mainstream.

Since 2010 the number of pupils recorded with additional support needs has more than doubled over the last few years (153% increase since 2010). This is likely to be due in large part to better recognition and changes in recording practice. In 2010 102.2 pupils per 1,000 were recorded as having additional support needs. In 2016 this had increased to 248.7 per 1,000.

More information about the Committee’s work, including information about the submissions from parents can be found via the following link:

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