The summary statistics for schools in Scotland indicate that in September 2015 the pupil to teacher ratio in special schools was 3.6:1. That compares with a pupil to teacher ratio of 3.2:1 in 2008.
We want all children and young people to receive the support that they need to learn. At the end of this week I will publish my annual report to Parliament on the implementation of additional support for learning, which sets out that in 2015 education authorities spent £579 million on additional support for learning, an increase of £24 million on 2014.
The minister will be aware of the fact that there are 164 more special school pupils than there were in 2008, with a total of 6,920, but that there are 172 fewer teachers teaching that group of pupils. If the group is a priority in relation to inequalities, what is the Government going to do to restore that ratio to one that is reasonable, and to ensure that the numbers of special needs assistants in those schools, who are also vital, are not cut with the present pressure on local authorities?
The member will obviously be aware of the commitment that the Government has to maintaining teacher numbers and pupil to teacher ratios, in the relationship that we have set out with local government on that very issue.
I know that the member is familiar with some of the reasons why there has been an increase in the number of pupils who fall into this category in recent years, due to the difference in the way that that number is recorded. That said, I am very alive to the fact that we need to continue to ensure that we provide the services that are needed. I am pleased about the fact that attendance has improved and also, crucially, that attainment has improved among that group of pupils. We all need to work together to ensure that those trends continues.