Scotland bucks trend with rise in special education needs pupils attending mainstream schools

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Children with special needs are increasingly being “forced” out of mainstream education despite new legal protections, a disability charity has warned.

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) accused the Government of an “on-going attack on disabled people’s rights to be included rather than segregated from society”.

And campaigners have accused schools of putting exam results and their reputations before the needs of disabled pupils.

However, analysis by the JPIMedia data unit has shown that while the number of children with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream education has fallen by a quarter (24%) in England since 2012, in comparison, Scotland has seen a sharp rise in the number of children with Additional Support Needs (ASN) in mainstream education, following a drive for greater inclusion.

However, Scottish schools still struggle to support children with additional needs, JPIMedia has learned.

Jack (not his real name), a pupil support assistant from Edinburgh, said: “There seems to be an idealistic vision of schools being wholly inclusive and every individual child’s needs being met.

“Of course ethically and morally that is great but the implementation of that is still paying major catch-up.”

He said children were often placed into segregated systems within schools, adding: “By sticking a kid in a mainstream school but in a segregated department or even an outbuilding at times, all you are doing is displacing the issue. You’re not dealing with it and these children are not being fully integrated.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “All children and young people should receive the support that they need to reach their learning potential and all teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs, not just ‘support for learning’ staff. Councils make decisions about resources, teaching and staffing.

“Between 2012 and 2018 pupil support assistant numbers grew by 12%, home-school link worker numbers increased by 98% to 356 and school nurse or other medical posts rose 22%.

“New online resources have been created to support school staff and guidance on the presumption to include ASN pupils in mainstream education has been updated.”

The five Scottish council areas with the lowest proportion of pupils with ASN in mainstream primaries were:

Angus - 10.2%

North Lanarkshire - 13.7%

East Renfrewshire - 17%

Fife - 17.7%

East Dunbartonshire - 17.8%

The five Scottish council areas with the lowest proportion of pupils with ASN in mainstream secondaries were:

North Lanarkshire - 17.2%

East Dunbartonshire - 20.7%

South Ayrshire - 24.5%

Renfrewshire - 25%

South Lanarkshire - 25.1%