Created on 29 October 2014
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest union for teachers and lecturers, has highlighted the significant impact of long term cuts to Further Education funding on Additional Support Needs (ASN) provision in Scotland’s colleges. The EIS submitted Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to each college in Scotland asking key questions regarding each institution’s ASN provision. The results show a significant decline, nationally, in the level of support available to students with ASN in Scotland’s FE colleges – with significant regional differences in provision.

EIS-FELA (Further Education Lecturers’ Association) President John Kelly said, “The results of this national survey of ASN provision in Scotland’s colleges clearly indicate a significant decline in ASN provision for students since the Government began implemented funding cuts for FE colleges four years ago. The evidence from this EIS-FELA survey shows that it is the students who both require and deserve specialist additional support that are suffering the deepest and most damaging consequences of funding cuts. Continued funding cuts have led to a systematic reduction in ASN activity and a reduction in total college capacity to support ASN students – the most vulnerable students in society. The sad truth is that cuts to ASN provision make it far more difficult, if not impossible, for many of these learners to access education at all.”

He added, “The Survey also identifies an alarming range in the amount of ASN provision different FE regions provide, which raises serious equality concerns. For example, Dundee College had 699 DPG18 (ASN) students in 2012-13 whilst Aberdeen College had 240, despite being a much larger college. In the same year; West Lothian College, Aberdeen College and Anniesland College all delivered similar amounts of DPG18 ASN activity despite significant differences in their size and geographic footprint. ASN provision is erratic and it would seem purely historical, with no nationwide planning, that the levels of support ASN students receive is dependant mainly on where they live. For Learners with ASN, potentially having to travel to an institution in another part of the country can present a significant barrier to their access to education.”

He went on to say, “These are the most vulnerable students in tertiary education and they deserve better. The EIS-FELA survey shows clear trends over the last four years – and starkly identifies the decline in ASN provision within every metric we surveyed – fewer DPG 18 students, fewer ASN courses, fewer qualified staff, fewer rooms and so on. The FE Colleges are now funded as a public sector, with the Scottish Funding Council overseeing regional outcome agreements based on government priorities. ASN provision needs to be restored to 2009-10 levels, and greater consistency of ASN activity delivered across Scotland. The Scottish Government and the SFC will need to ensure that all Regional Outcome Agreements have similar terms.”

The key findings of the EIS analysis of the college FOI returns include:

  • The data clearly shows a year-on-year reduction every year from 2009-10 to 2012-13 in DPG18 (additional support needs) student numbers. The number of DPG18 students in the colleges sharing data has dropped from 19,622 to 14,887 between 2009-10 and 2012-13. This is a reduction of 24%. There is a clear year-on-year trend in reducing DPG18 provision.
  • While the number of ASN courses has fluctuated from 2009-10 to 2012-13, the overall trend is downwards. In 2009-10 1388 ASN courses were run, in 2012-13 the number was 1025.
  •  The number of full time ASN students has fluctuated in the period 2009-13, but the overall trend is marginally upwards. In 2009-10 the number of full time students was 5535, and this had risen to 5682 in 2012-13. This trend may reflect the wider shift towards full time students in the Scottish college sector, as sought by Government policy.
  • The number of part-time ASN students has steadily dropped in the period 2009-13. In 2009-10, the number of part-time students was 19,746, and this dropped to 17,490 in the following year, then 14,963 in the following year and was 13,243 in 2012-13. The drop of 6,500 part-time students is not offset by the increase of 150 or so full-time students.
  • In 2009-10 66 staff across the whole Scottish college sector held a Diploma in SEN (or equivalent) and this had dropped to 52 in 2012-13.
  • At the time of the FoI responses in late 2013 / early 2014 only 46 staff held a Diploma in SEN (or equivalent), this is a drop of 30%. Six colleges stated that they had no Diploma in SEN qualified staff.
  • Only one college in Scotland requires staff teaching ASN classes to hold a Diploma in Special Educational Needs or equivalent (NESCol).