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Education Secretary urged to address additional support needs concerns

Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee wrote to John Swinney on Tuesday outlining its recommendations for Scottish schools.

The letter to Mr Swinney said many concerns raised in 2017 remain relevant (Jane Barlow/PA)
The letter to Mr Swinney said many concerns raised in 2017 remain relevant (Jane Barlow/PA)

MSPs have written to John Swinney calling for action to be taken to address concerns around additional support needs (ASN) in schools.

Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee has been scrutinising how much progress has been made by the Scottish Government to address issues around ASN that were highlighted in its 2017 report on the matter.

The review has involved a range of evidence sessions and engagement work, including MSPs hearing from parents, carers, teachers and school staff to consider their views.

In its letter to the Education Secretary, the committee noted many issues raised in the 2017 inquiry “still remain relevant”.

The letter stated: “In light of the evidence received on seclusion and restraint, part-time timetabling, unlawful exclusions and home-schooling as a last resort, the committee considers that the Scottish Government should consider ways of improving data gathering on these approaches, be it through random sampling of schools or a wider approach.”

In one part of the letter, the committee indicated that a statement it made in 2017 suggesting a policy of inclusion was having the opposite effect in some circumstances due to a lack of resources could still be considered to be relevant.

It also stated it would welcome the Scottish Government’s perspective on a suggestion made by one contributor to the inquiry that the definition of what constitutes an additional support need under existing legislation could be reviewed.

Monitoring staffing levels was also highlighted as an area that should be further considered.

The letter read: “As previously raised with you, in order to allow for a meaningful assessment of trends in staffing levels it is vital to have statistics that reflect the number of support staff with a specialism in supporting those with additional support needs.

“Work to standardise the nomenclature used by local authorities is a starting point for making progress in this area. ”

In another section of the letter, the committee outlined the experiences of parents and highlighted that a number of parents consider that they need to “actively and vigorously” pursue adequate support for their children.

The letter stated: “The committee reiterates its analysis from 2017 on the need for increased awareness-raising and support for parents, including the recommendation that the Scottish Government should increase the provision of advocacy services and look at how these could be best targeted at raising awareness and supporting parents from areas of deprivation.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We welcome the recommendations from the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee and will consider these carefully.

“All young people deserve the same opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential, and the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all children and young people receive the support that they need to reach their learning potential.

“We have recently published revised guidance on the presumption to mainstream education, alongside online resources to support school staff in their delivery of support to pupils.”

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