New research has shown that the number of teachers employed in Scotland to provide additional support for pupils has fallen to a new low.
Last year, 2015, there were just 2,936 teachers in Scotland with additional support needs as their main subject. This is 27 fewer than in 2014 and represents a consistent drop from 2009 when 3,402 were employed.
The statistics emerged following a Parliamentary Question by Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians, Miles Briggs.
Among the local authority areas to experience the largest drop since 2009 were Aberdeen [192 to 115 – a 40% drop]; Edinburgh [169 to 125 – a 26% drop]; and Fife [248 to 194 – a 22% drop].
These figures come against a backdrop of the SNP’s general cutting of teacher numbers, as well as a lack of college places for pupils planning to leave school.
Miles Briggs, one of the new intake of May 2016, says: ‘It will be of real concern to many parents across Scotland that these numbers have reached a new low.
‘It’s also alarming that there appears to be such a vast difference in provision of additional support for learning teachers across different local authorities.
‘Some councils have seen an increase, while others like Edinburgh are noticeably declining.’
Argyll and Bute Council, of course, had, earlier this year, offered a 45% cutting back of additional support needs assistants as an element [which was not taken forwards after consultation] of its options to meet the budget cuts imposed by the then Finance Secretary, John Swinney.
Now that he is Education Secretary, brought in to firefight to try to recover the measured failing of the education system in Scotland, Mr Swinney’s perspectives may well change. He is looking at a situation where:
- primary and secondary pupils’ competence in numeracy and literacy has been shown to be steadily failing since the SNP came to office in 2007 and introduced the risibly titled Curriculum for Excellence;
- teacher confidence in the Curriculum for Excellence is in freefall;
- government strategies have made no difference to the gap in attainment between pupils from well off and deprived backgrounds;
- poor teacher recruitment is a major concern in many areas, including the city of Aberdeen;
- the proposed regular testing of primary pupils – which is defensible in the current situation, will add to teachers’ workloads and is being resisted by them;
- the coming introduction – at the end of August this year, 2016, of the highly controversial and unworkable Named Person form of state guardianship for children and young people – will add substantially to the workload of certain types of teachers as well as to their stress levels in the public accountability such responsibilities will carry;
- the number of college places has been drastically cut;
- university funding is in crisis.
Miles Briggs notes: ‘For pupils who require this additional support, the lack of access is likely to impact on their studies and will risk them not reaching their potential.
‘It is difficult to see how the Scottish Government will reduce the attainment gap while these numbers are going down.’