A RISE in the number of Fife schoolkids with Additional Support Needs (ASN) is partly down to children "arriving from other countries" who don't speak English.

That's according to a senior Lib Dem councillor, Tim Brett, who said it was also down to their "migration status" and more youngsters being diagnosed with autism or ASD spectrum conditions.

He added that kids with ASN "create significant additional demands for hard-pressed teaching staff" and that "such children may make it difficult for others in the class to learn".

The party said the number of schoolkids with ASN had increased by 1,755 over the last two years to 12,713, which represents 25 per cent of all pupils in Fife.

Cllr Brett, leader of the Lib Dem group at Fife Council, said: "I am sure there are a number of reasons why there has been an increase, including the fact that more children are arriving from other countries who will then be declared as having ASN either due to English not being their first language or to their migration status.

"In addition, autism or ASD spectrum conditions continue to show an increase.

"This is a complex issue and reflects the fact that most parents want to get a diagnosis for their child and also a changing profile within the population."

The Lib Dems want the council to research why there has been an increase and he added: "I know that children with ASN can create significant additional demands for hard-pressed teaching staff.

"I am concerned that such children may make it difficult for others in the class to learn or, alternatively, may not get the personal support that they need if the teacher is having to concentrate on the needs of the whole class.

"There is a need to look at what else can be done to address this and with tightening education budgets, the provision of pupil assistance makes this doubly difficult."

David Farmer, from the EIS union in Fife, said it was an issue they had "major concerns" about.

He stated: "The reasons why numbers have increased are not necessarily politically incorrect.

"A lot of things are starting to be recognised that previously haven't been in quite that detail.

"As a union, we don't see that as a bad thing and fully support inclusion. But if you're going to say to these kids that it's right to include them in mainstream education then there has to be a recognition that comes with a huge financial responsibility."

He added: "The main issue is money, there's no way round it, and the need for more staff.

"Right now they're just not there which means the workload burden for teachers is increasing.

"That makes it very difficult for those kids to get the very best, which is what they deserve because of those ASN."

The council's head of education and children's services, Maria Lloyd, said there had been a rise across Scotland in the number of children identified as having ASN.

She added: "We see this as a positive move forward, as it means that we are getting better at identifying specific needs, at a much earlier age, to ensure that children are getting the support they need throughout their schooling. This is the whole aim of GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child).

"Where possible, we will try not to label children but instead have them fully integrated into mainstream education.

"Our teachers are well-trained and well-practised in teaching children to varying levels within one classroom.

"We welcome children with English as an additional language into our schools, although they make up a small percentage of this rise in ASN numbers.”