22 March 2023

Additional Support Needs to come under the spotlight

An increasing number of children and young people in Aberdeenshire’s schools have an identified Additional Support Need (ASN), with the figure approaching around half of all pupils. 

In 2021 there were 16,885 pupils recorded as having an additional support need across all schools in Aberdeenshire, accounting for 46.1% of the school roll.

The figure for 2022 was 48% - 9,300 pupils in primary schools, accounting for around 45% of all pupils and 8,160 pupils in secondary schools, accounting for around 52%.

Across Scotland there are over 241,000 pupils - around 34% of all pupils - with an additional support need in 2022 - an increase of 1.2% on 2021.

There are many reasons why pupils might need additional support.  

Aberdeenshire Council’s Principal Educational Psychologist and Service Manager for Inclusion, Equity and Wellbeing Carron Douglas said: “Needs can arise from factors at school, for example the support strategies in a school can play a significant role in determining whether a pupil’s needs can be met through standard classroom practices, or whether support beyond the classroom is needed.

“The needs of a pupil can vary considerably from a short-term identified need to more complex needs that will require ongoing support throughout their lives.”

Those needs could come from family circumstances - domestic violence or parental substance use, to social and emotional factors such as being bullied or experiencing some kind of hardship. Language difficulties can also play a part.

Additional support can also be required if a pupil has a disability or health condition, for example autism, foetal alcohol syndrome - where a child is exposed to alcohol before birth - or a mental health issue.

Carron continued: “It isn’t possible for us to create specialist provision to meet the needs of almost half of the pupil population.

“We’re looking to create a greater focus on adapting mainstream education to meet the needs of children and young people with additional support needs. 

“The demand for enhanced provision places in primary schools currently outweighs supply and there is insufficient space within the majority of enhanced provision schools to allow an increase in the number of places that can be offered.

“Increasing the number of enhanced provision placements would also have staffing implications, which is challenging within the context of teacher recruitment difficulties.

“These difficulties aside, it is unlikely that increasing enhanced provision capacity would provide a sustainable solution as the numbers of pupils with additional support needs continues to rise year-on-year.”

Aberdeenshire Council is currently going through stakeholder consultation to seek views on no longer operating this ‘inreach model’ of enhanced provision support for Primary 1 and Primary 2 children.

Carron continued: “This will shift us to a more inclusive model of mainstream education in the early stages and be supported by a comprehensive package of support for mainstream schools.  

“There will be continue to be specialist places for children with significant and complex learning needs.”

Members of the council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee are recommended on Thursday (March 23) to endorse the Child Inclusion: Research into Curriculum, Learning and Education (CIRCLE) Framework in all Aberdeenshire primary and secondary schools by the summer of 2025.

The CIRCLE Framework was developed by Queen Margaret University, NHS Lothian and City of Edinburgh Council and is endorsed by Education Scotland.

Carron added: “It represents the reflective practice of hundreds of teachers as well as feedback from learners and parents and carers and is based on relevant research and policy guidance.

“CIRCLE is a way of organising and supporting pupils and helps teachers identify and anticipate pupils’ additional support needs and implement practical strategies to support the underlying skills that pupils require to enable them to participate in school.” 

Several local authorities already use the CIRCLE framework and it has been piloted at Aboyne Academy and a number of primary schools in Ellon during 2022-23. 

Evaluation data has indicated that it has supported a decrease in mainstream teachers referring pupils for specialist ASN support as well as increased teacher confidence in meeting learner’s needs through universal supports.

It also offers more targeted use of PSA time with individual pupils and provides enhanced motivation for both teachers and learners.

You can find out more about additional support needs at Aberdeenshire schools by visiting