ASN: Impact on Teaching and Learning Multiple Children With ASN

Created on: 02 Jul 2019 | Last modified: 24 Jul 2023


1. The 2018 AGM passed the following resolution relating to the impact of having multiple children with additional support needs in mainstream classes:

“That this AGM instruct Council to investigate and report on the impact on teaching and learning when there are multiple children with additional support needs (ASN) in a mainstream classroom.

We further instruct Council to use these findings to lobby the Scottish Government and Local Authorities to increase the level of additional support in mainstream classrooms to improve the learning and teaching for all.”

2. This resolution echoed very similar concerns which had been expressed at previous recent AGMs. In 2016, the AGM called on Council “to investigate and report on the consequences of Presumption to Mainstreaming in all sectors in terms of funding, resources, workload and impact on staff health and wellbeing” and “to use the information to campaign for an increase in resources, including staffing, to support all children with additional support needs and the full implications of the ASL Act (as amended 2004).”

Also in 2016, it was agreed to “investigate and report on the consequences, as perceived by nursery, primary and secondary teachers, of current inclusion practices on the welfare and learning of the majority of children.” In 2017, concern was noted about the continuing reduction in EAL teachers, ASN teachers and vital support staff including classroom assistants and ASN assistants and it was agreed to “campaign for a review of resourcing of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2009 and to urge the Scottish Government to increase funding and staffing levels following this review” and to reflect in campaigning “the growing concerns of members of the impact of underfunding of support for ASN on wider attainment and achievement levels.”

The 2018 resolution which is the subject of this report therefore coincided with significant recent and ongoing work to highlight the impact on the education system, including on teaching and learning, of there being multiple children with additional support needs (ASN) in many mainstream classrooms. It also coincided with ongoing lobbying for increased levels of additional support for mainstream schools.

The EIS has consistently argued in favour of the presumption of mainstreaming; we welcome diversity in classrooms and in educational communities. However, the Institute has also consistently argued, in relation to meeting the needs of children who require Additional Support for Learning (ASL), that the success of ASL legislation and of the associated processes is dependent on the provision of adequate resources to meet the needs of each individual learner. We are gravely concerned by the under-resourcing of the legislative commitment to include children with a range of sometimes complex needs in mainstream settings. 

The number of children in Scotland with identified ASN has increased significantly in the last decade, from 17,626 in 2008 to 101,558 in 2018. The 2018 figure equates to 25.4% of the total school roll, compared with only 4.8% in 2009. Of the 101,558 pupils with additional support needs reported in the 2018 school census, 98,905 (or 97%) spend all their time in mainstream classes. The proportion of pupils with additional support needs in 2008 who spent all of their time in mainstream classes was 88%.1

Our concerns about a rising climate of need set against ever reducing resources have been noted in a range of policy papers in response to the above resolutions, which were shared at the 2017 and 2018 AGMs. Our concerns were summated in a member briefing paper, appended. Local Association Secretaries have been encouraged to use the briefing paper in local lobbying and negotiations.

Other developments

Over the course of the 2018/19 session, other important developments unfolded. The ‘Value Education, Value Teachers’ campaign survey identified that meeting the needs of children and young people with ASN is a major priority among members, with over 78% of respondents stating that they disagreed that there was adequate provision for children with additional support needs in their school.2

This will be a significant element of ongoing negotiations now that the pay element of the offer has been agreed. The EIS has also decided to publish a position paper on ASL, to draw together our concerns about what’s not working well at present, which will be a companion to research commissioned from the University of Aberdeen. This new publication, expected in May 2019, will give fresh impetus to our lobbying for adequate
resourcing, which is an ongoing endeavour. The Scottish Parliament also passed a motion3 calling for a review of ASN provision, which is ongoing at the time of writing.


There is now a wealth of evidence about the impact of having multiple children with additional support needs in a mainstream classroom, within a context of diminishing support for those children from specialist services, and a context of staff shortages. The impact on teaching and learning is significant.

The EIS will continue to campaign for an increase in resources, including staffing, to ensure that all children with additional support needs, including those in mainstream classes, are able to have their needs met at school.

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