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We can’t tackle the problem and get the right resources into our schools with this smokescreen obscuring the very real staffing crisis affecting young people with additional support needs. Ross Greer MSP

Following today’s evidence session with government statisticians at Holyrood’s Education committee, Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer has blasted changes to the data published on school staff.

Mr Greer says the merging and dropping of categories is a ‘smokescreen obscuring the very real staffing crisis affecting young people with additional support needs.’

The reduction of published data was discovered by the Greens, leading to an exchange between Mr Greer & Deputy First Minister during a previous committee session and prompting the committee to question government statisticians directly on the change.

The Scottish Government decided to stop publishing the number of additional support needs assistants in schools in the statistical release of school data for 2017. Instead, they now combine this information with ordinary classroom assistants into a new category of “pupil support assistant”. Scottish Government statisticians have stated they will collect data on ASN assistants for this current year and that it will be available upon request, but they have not confirmed that this data will be collected in future years.

This change means that published statistics on staff in schools no longer identify how many support staff work specifically with pupils with additional needs. Instead, only the total number of support staff for all pupils is readily available. As the number of pupils with identified additional needs has increased dramatically in recent years, from 69,587 in 2010 to 183,491 in 2017 (now one in four pupils), the need to correctly record the number of staff supporting them is greater than ever.

A recent report, Not Included, Not Engaged, Not Involved, jointly authored by Children in Scotland, The National Autistic Society, and Scottish Autism found that 85% of parents with autistic children said their child did not receive support to catch up on school work and that 34% reported their child had been excluded from school in the last two years.

Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer MSP said:

“This is a fundamental issue of transparency which the government are unable to provide a credible answer on. We know that far, far too many of the one in four young people with additional needs in Scotland are being badly let down and a lack of appropriate staff support is often the cause. These changes will mask that continued decline in the number of ASN assistants by merging them into a comically generalised category of ‘Pupil Support Assistants’.

“There is a world of difference between the general learning and admin support provided by a classroom assistant and the specialist support which should be provided by ASN staff. We can’t tackle the problem and get the right resources into our schools with this smokescreen obscuring the very real staffing crisis affecting young people with additional support needs.”