Our budget

Additional Support Needs (ASN) Transformation

What are we doing?

We have agreed proposals for the transformation of Additional Support Needs (ASN) services as part of a change programme.


Why are we doing this?

A redesign review in 2016 identified the need to review how we deliver additional support in schools.  The implementation of the findings was agreed within budget proposals for 2019-22 by Council on 14 February 2019.

Our current information shows that we currently spend a budget of £36.8M on ASN, with a staffing establishment of 1,253 full time equivalent staff and over 12,650 pupils with at least one ASN need and stage (including 144 in our special schools). This is over 41 percent of all our pupils in Highland.

Our core budget for ASN has grown by 20 percent between 2012/13 and 2018/19 at a time when most council budgets have reduced and more than £125 million of savings have had to be made across other services to date. The budget saving agreed for this year for ASN represents a reduction of £3.857 million, of which at least £0.250 million is removal of vacant posts and a reduction in Pupil Support Assistant (PSA) funding of £700,000.


How do we compare with elsewhere?

In Highland, we have the highest reported levels of ASN in Scotland. Comparative councils have much lower levels identified and are achieving improved outcomes. The percentage of Highland primary pupils identified as ASN is 38 percent compared with a national average of 25 percent. The percentage of Highland secondary pupils with ASN is 44 percent compared with a national average of 32 percent.

Over 5 years (2014-18 inclusive) the total number of pupils in Highland with needs assessed at:

  • Level 3 has increased by 28 percent
  • Level 4 has increased by 54 percent
  • Levels 3 and 4 combined have increased by 37 percent

These high rates and rapid growth in Highland tells us that we need to closely examine our model and practices.


Who have we involved?

In addition to public and staff engagement, there has been extensive engagement with Head Teachers over the past 6 months. In these discussions it has been recognised that the current allocation process requires to be reviewed to make sure there is a fit for purpose process in place that also meets the changing needs of both our children and our school settings.

Head Teachers have been provided with both written and verbal briefings to help them advise Parent Councils and parents and specific engagement with parents will take place through the schools' normal engagement processes for considering children's need.

Meetings have been taking place with key representative groups and elected members in order to brief them on the process. Following discussions with parents, proposals are being developed for Parent Advocacy Reps from across the Highlands to be set up to ensure inclusion of the parent voice in the ASN redesign. They will also work with us to develop community partnership approaches to improving networks, support and services for families beyond the school day.


What are we going to do?

An ASN Transformation Project has been set up as part of the Change Programme and progress will be regularly monitored and reported to members.

Our focus is on embedding professional practice and skills within the school system, supporting staff at all levels to identify and respond appropriately to the variety of complex needs in an inclusive and appropriate way. A comprehensive training programme for teachers and PSAs has been developed and discussions have been taking place with Head Teachers during May. The training programme will be finalised at the end of May and will be ready to roll out to staff from June, based on schools identifying their training needs

A phased approach will be taken to resource allocation, so that it is equitable and targeted to where it is most needed. The revised allocation model for the school year 2019-20 will be finalised in May and after this we can have more detailed discussions with parents and staff about how this will work and where we can make improvements. Moving staffing resource between schools in "teams" is business as usual, as ASN needs change on a regular basis from school to school, as pupils are identified, or change or leave school. It is important to have a responsive, flexible and fit for purpose model in place to make best use of the resources available.

Meanwhile, we recognise that there is considerable misinformation and rumour circulating, particularly on social media and this may cause unnecessary worry. We appreciate this is an uncertain time for staff and for parents. However we are not able to provide precise details on staffing resource until May. In the meantime, everything possible is being done to clarify any queries staff and parents may have.


What will this mean for jobs?

Budget savings have been phased over three years to allow sufficient time to make the necessary changes, and Teachers and PSAs will be supported through the change process. The Council is committed to protecting jobs, making changes without the need for redundancies wherever possible, while continuing to meet the needs of all pupils.

To avoid the need for redundancies, vacancy controls, reallocations, retraining and internal deployment will be used to reconfigure the workforce. We are continuing to work closely with Trade Unions on this. Some PSAs have already expressed an interest in training as Early Years Practitioners or in a career in teaching.


What will this mean for children?

We aim to design a more effective and inclusive model which will continue to provide the appropriate and consistent levels of support to children to enable them to achieve their best potential.

Pupils with lower levels of identified needs (at levels 1 and 2) will usually be appropriately supported within the classroom by the class teacher, who will use differentiated materials or a range of other identified strategies to make learning accessible. We will continue to target support to those pupils with significant and complex support needs. An evaluation of how we assess children and meet needs will result in better consistency across Highland. This will be carried out during 2019.


Further Sources of information

Primary school ASN: The number of pupils reported with additional support needs (ASN) in primary schools in Highland has increased from 26 percent of the primary school roll to 38 percent during 2014-2018.The figures are 21 percent rising to 27 percent in our benchmark group and 19 percent rising to 25 percent nationally over the same period.  Our assessed need is the highest of our benchmark group and has grown at twice the rate elsewhere.

Secondary school ASN: The number of pupils reported with ASN in secondary schools in Highland has more than doubled in the same period, from 21 percent of the secondary roll to 44 percent.  The figures are 21 percent rising to 34 percent in our benchmark group and 21 percent rising to 32 percent nationally.  Our assessed need is the highest of our benchmark group and well above the national rate.

The number of pupils reported in primary and secondary schools combined with ASN has grown from 24 percent to 41 percent.  The comparative figures for our benchmark group show an increase from 21 percent to 30 percent and a rise from 20 percent to 28 percent nationally.

Special schools: These figures exclude the pupils in our special schools.  In 2018 our special schools' roll is 144.  Some councils do not have special schools, so their figures are included in the Scottish average figures above, making our comparative rates even higher.

Our benchmark group of councils for comparison includes:

  • Angus
  • Argyll and Bute
  • East Lothian
  • Midlothian
  • Moray
  • Scottish Borders
  • Stirling 

The benchmark groups take into account relative deprivation and affluence (key drivers of educational outcomes) and the type of area (e.g. rural, semi-rural, urban).  For indicators relating to children and social work the benchmark group for Highland Council is Group 2 where Local Authorities in Group 1 are the least deprived, and Group 4 are the most deprived.

For further information on benchmarking and the four groups, see The Improvement Service SEEMiS Highland Council data (from 2016 data from early years are included).

Source: Scottish Government Pupil Census, supplementary data.

If you have any questions about the project you can contact:


Equality Impact Assessment

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