THE NUMBER of specialist teachers helping vulnerable children in East Renfrewshire schools has increased – bucking a national trend which has seen a dramatic decline in staffing levels.

Latest figures released by the Scottish Government show a 20% drop in the number of staff employed to teach children with additional support needs (ASN) across the country as a whole over the last 12 years.

There were 2,843 such teachers last year – down by one-fifth from 3,524 back in 2010, despite an increase in the demand for their services.

However, in East Renfrewshire, there were 34 ASN teachers in 2022 – the highest for the last four years, although the figure is below a peak of 45 recorded in 2016.

Children with additional support needs can have a serious disability, major health issues or difficult family circumstances.

They often struggle to take part in regular lessons and need one-to-one help from specially-trained staff.

An estimated 26% of all pupils in Scottish schools are said to have additional support needs.

The national figures were obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats under Freedom of Information legislation.

They also revealed there were just 70 specialist teachers across Scotland for 31,268 pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Willie Rennie, of the Scottish Lib Dems, said: "In the last 15 years, teaching support has been stripped out of classrooms.

"We would support more pupil support assistants and encourage specialist ASN training."

According to the same report, Glasgow has the most ASN teachers in Scotland (182), followed by Edinburgh (169) and North Lanarkshire (123).

A spokesperson for East Renfrewshire Council said: "Our teacher numbers have remained the same for next session, as has the number of pupil support assistants in our schools, so the support for children with additional support needs within our mainstream schools has not changed.

"In addition, our teaching numbers within our communication centres in Carlibar Primary and Williamwood High are increasing from the start of the next session in August and a new additional support needs unit is also set to open in August 2023 within Carolside Primary."

A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “Local authorities are responsible for identifying and meeting the additional support needs of their pupils.

"In 2022, the number of teachers in additional support need schools increased by 93 to 2,097."