Pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorders

– in the Scottish Parliament on 15th December 2016.

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Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that pupils with disorders on the autism spectrum have equal opportunities in school. (S5O-00485)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

We want all children and young people to get the support that they need to reach their full learning potential. Local authorities have duties under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, as amended, to identify, provide for and review personalised support for children and young people who face barriers to learning, including those arising from autism.

Photo of Dean Lockhart Dean Lockhart Conservative

Recent statistics from Enable Scotland highlight that more than half of children with learning difficulties and/or autism believe that they are not fulfilling their potential at school. Just this week, statistics have shown that the number of special school teachers has dropped by 9 per cent since 2007. Does the Government agree that that represents a concerning position for those children and that more must be done to provide more funding and support for pupils with additional support needs?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I had the very good fortune to meet Enable Scotland when it was in Parliament highlighting many of those issues just last week, and it was a helpful and informative discussion. The central point of the proposals that Enable Scotland has put forward is that we must use every opportunity to ensure that the statutory guidance and the statutory framework that are in place are used to meet the needs of young people within the school situation.

On the comparison with 2007, I note that we have seen since then a growing sense that young people should be educated within a mainstream environment. That follows from the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc Act 2000. We need to ensure that our education system is fulfilling young people’s needs. In some circumstances that will be within a mainstream setting and in other cases it will be in a special educational setting. We must make those judgments according to the needs of young people themselves.

Photo of Ross Greer Ross Greer Green

Given the loss of more than 400 additional support needs teachers since 2009, how many more teachers does the Government expect local authorities will be forced to cut as a result of today’s budget announcements?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I point out to Mr Greer that teacher numbers were shown to have increased on Tuesday, and that is because the Government made an absolute commitment to ensure that that happened. I welcome the fact that teacher numbers increased.

In a couple of hours, Mr Mackay will set out the Government’s budget and I look forward to hearing the measures that he sets out this afternoon and the positive impact that they will have on Scottish education and other public services.