Education cuts and controversial reforms were the major talking points at the Scottish Greens conference, as MSPs condemned the Scottish Government’s approach.

At the conference on 22 October, the party called for the SNP to stop “unwanted and unhelpful” changes to teaching in Scotland, and criticised cuts to additional support teachers.

Ferret Fact Service assessed this claim and found it Mostly True.

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Evidence

The number of pupils in Scotland in 2016 was 684,415, according to the most recent statistics, while those with additional support needs (ASN) numbered 170,329. This is approximately 25 per cent of the total, or one in four.

There has been a significant increase in ASN pupils since 2007, when the percentage stood at around four per cent. This is most likely down to improvements in reporting, according to Scottish Government statisticians.

It should be noted that those with reported additional needs may not necessarily require a dedicated ASN teacher, with many needs met by class teachers without such a specialty. These statistics refer to teachers with ASN as their main subject.

The second part of the claim is that more than 500 ASN teachers have been cut over the past seven years.

The Scottish Greens point to statistics from the Summary Statistics for Schools 2016, showing the overall number of ASN teachers across primary, secondary and those who are centrally located (including supply teachers and similar).

The number of ASN teachers between 2007 and 2015 was revealed by education secretary John Swinney in response to a parliamentary question.


According to these figures, there were 3,363 ASN teachers in Scotland in 2010. The latest figures for 2016 from the Scottish Summary for Schools report show the number has fallen to 2,896.

This is a decrease of 467 teachers over the six years referred to by the Scottish Greens. Using the Summary statistics for Schools data shows a similar decrease of 463 ASN teachers.

The Scottish Greens claim of “over 500” is around 10 per cent higher than the data shows.

Numbers of support staff for students with additional support needs have also dropped significantly since 2010, according to the statistics.

There were a total of 6,017 support staff for ASN pupils in 2010 but by 2016 this had been reduced to 5,463, a cut of more than 550 in six years.

Have teacher numbers declined under the SNP government?

The statistics cited by the Scottish Greens are part of a broader reduction in teacher numbers in Scotland, with around 1,000 fewer than in 2010. Therefore, according to the Scottish Government’s statistics, around 44 per cent of cuts to school teacher staffing have been ASN teachers.

It is important to note that decisions on school staffing are made by local authorities under the general direction of the Scottish Government, which has devolved power over education in Scotland.

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly True

The Scottish Greens claim that more than 500 ASN teachers have been cut since 2010 is not quite accurate. While there has been a significant reduction in teacher numbers, the data seems to show a decrease of between 460 and 470 depending on the source. They are broadly correct on the proportion of pupils with additional support needs and the reduction of support staff.

Mostly True

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at factcheck@theferret.scot or join our community forum.

In response to an evidence request, the Scottish Greens provided links to the Summary Statistics for Schools report as well as John Swinney’s response to a parliamentary question detailing ASN numbers.

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One in four pupils in Scotland have a recognised additional support need but since 2010 over 500 ASN teachers have also been cut.