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The number of additional needs pupils in Dundee has tripled – so why has council spending halved?

The amount of money being spent on helping additional needs pupils in Dundee has fallen by more than half in less than 10 years.
The amount of money being spent on helping additional needs pupils in Dundee has fallen by more than half in less than 10 years.

The amount of money being spent on helping additional needs pupils in Dundee has fallen by more than half in less than 10 years.

Scottish Government figures reveal the average spend per pupil by Dundee City Council on additional support for learning has fallen by 55% since the 2012-13 school year.

The figures show that in 2012/13 the local authority spent an average of £5,161 per pupil on additional support learning. However by 2020/21 this had fallen to £2,274.

In the same period, the number of pupils across both primary and secondary schools in Dundee with additional support needs has more than tripled; rising from just over 2,000 in 2012 to over 6,200 in 2021.

Without greater investment, children will be failed and disillusioned staff lost, according to a city MSP.

In Scotland, any pupil who requires extra help with their learning – either for a short or long time – is deemed to have additional support needs.

What about the rest of Tayside and Fife?

The decrease in spending for additional support needs (ASN) pupils was mirrored in Fife, where the average spend per pupil fell by a quarter between 2012/13 and 2020/21.

Figures show that in the 2012/13 school year, the local authority spent on average £3,743 per ASN pupil. This fell to £2,794 in 2020/21.

In contrast Perth and Kinross Council has increased the average per-pupil spend on ASN learning by more than 1,000% in the same period.

Figures show that in 2012/13, an average of £271 was spent per pupil on ASN learning. This has risen to £3,023 in 2020-21.

Similarly, in Angus the average per-pupil spend on additional support for learning was £1,978 in 2012/13. By 2020/21 this had increased to £3,024.

National picture

The fall in spending in Dundee and Fife reflects the national picture and figures show the amount of money being spent on helping additional need pupils in Scotland has fallen by a fifth since 2012/13.

The fall in spending comes as the number of pupils in Scotland identified with additional support needs increased by more than 90% since 2012.

In the same period, the number of full-time equivalent ASN teachers has fallen; going from 3,389 in 2012 to all-time low of 2,860 in 2020 – a fall of 15.6%.

A ‘reality for desperate families’

Michael Marra, Labour MSP for North East Scotland region, said more investment must be made to ensure the right resources are in place to help ASN pupils.

He said: “Bringing a far greater number of pupils with additional support needs into mainstream education has not been matched with the required resource.

“The Scottish Government has been told this time and again.

“The figure of a 55% reduction in per head spend in Dundee will be staggering for the general public.

“For desperate families it is a very current reality and no surprise at all.”

Michael Marra.
Michael Marra.

“Demand is growing locally and nationally.

“Scottish Labour has been calling for years now for specific intervention around additional support needs.

“Without urgent action we will not just fail young people with additional needs but continue to lose staff who are increasingly disillusioned on the frontline.”

Increase in investment

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “All children and young people should receive the support they need to reach their full potential.

“Local authorities are responsible for identifying and meeting the additional support needs of their pupils.

“All teachers provide support to pupils with additional support needs, not just ‘support for learning’ staff.

“Figures published in December 2021 show that teacher numbers have increased for the sixth year in a row, rising to 54,285 in 2021.

“This means there are more teachers than at any time since 2008, with the ratio of pupils to teachers at its lowest since 2009.

“We are investing £145.5 million to support education staffing in 2022/23, representing the biggest increase to support teacher recruitment since 2007.

“We also provide councils with an additional £15 million each year to help them respond to the individual needs of children and young people.

“This has allowed the recruitment of 1,036 extra pupil support assistants in 2021.”

Dundee City Council has been approached for comment.

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