The ratio of West Dunbartonshire pupils with additional support needs (ASN) being supported by specialist staff has worsened, according to Scottish Government figures released last week.

School Support Staff statistics found that in 2017 there were 303 support staff members in the local authority’s schools.

With 4,621 pupils identified with ASN (36.7 per cent of the pupil population) those numbers equate to one support staff member per 15.25 of the pupil population with ASN . That’s up from a ratio of one staff member per 14.6 in 2012.

But the Scottish Government claims the numbers are not directly comparable to last year’s, with changes to categories and reporting of statistics.

At 36.7 per cent, West Dunbartonshire’s number of pupils with ASN is the third-highest in Scotland, after Aberdeenshire and Highland.

Though the overall support staff number in the area had decreased, there was an increase in home-school link workers, bumping up from 20 in 2012, to 24 in 2017, and also in educational psychologists, with nine in 2012 rising to 12 in 2017.

Councillor Jonathan McColl, leader of SNP-led West Dunbartonshire Council, told the Reporter that over the five-year period to 2017, West Dunbartonshire “did well” in both maintaining teacher numbers and maintaining the number of specialist support staff available to help pupils with ASN.

He said: “Over those five years the council realigned services to meet changing needs, with more home-school link workers and educational psychologists being made available for pupils, and overall numbers of staff being maintained above 300.”

And he claimed that this year, the council have raised the number of specialist teachers.

A council spokeswoman said: “Our staff numbers remain over 300, with additional specialist teachers – including home-school link workers and educational psychologists - taken on to support pupils and families.”

Dumbarton councillor David McBride expressed disappointment in the worsening of the ratio between ASN pupils and support staff, both in West Dunbartonshire and Scotland as a whole.

And while Angie Davis, the Vale of Leven Autism and Aspergers Forum vice chair, said she was disappointed to see the 2017 support staff figures were down, she explained the forum would hope that the quality of the support is going up.

Ms Davis said: “We are grateful to have ties with the council, and we are impressed with how they are taking on board our ideas.”