We want all children and young people to get the support that they need to reach their full learning potential. Under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act (2004), education authorities have duties to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils.
The Scottish Government funds a number of services to provide advice and support to children, young people and their families, to ensure that they are fully informed of their rights to additional support and can access support and guidance that enables them to be involved in any decisions that are made about that support.
This year, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition highlighted a fall in the number of specialist teachers who support young people with additional support needs. A decline of something like 403 over the past six years takes the number of specialist teachers to a new low.
I welcome funds being made available for pupil support assistants, but will the Deputy First Minister say how much money the Government is allocating to plug the hole in the number of specialist teachers?
A range of specialists provide support and assistance to young people with additional support needs, and although teachers make a huge contribution, I think that, in her question, Jackie Baillie acknowledged the importance of other members of staff who contribute to the process.
On financial support, the most recent data that is available shows that local authorities have increased the amount that they are spending on education in general. There is a real-terms increase of 1 per cent, or 3 per cent in cash terms. On additional support for learning, local authorities have increased the support that they make available by 0.9 per cent in real terms, or 2.9 per cent in cash terms.
In addition, the Government has made available an extra £15 million in this financial year to expand the range of pupil support assistants. When I discussed the issues at a gathering on additional support needs that the Government convened in Edinburgh last week, the Government’s initiative to support provision at local level received a warm welcome.