'No spare cash' for Edinburgh classroom support
Head teachers have been told there is no spare funding to provide extra classroom support for a rising number of pupils with additional needs.
City of Edinburgh Council said it had recently received applications for an extra 250 pupils with support needs.
But a senior official has written to schools saying there is no money available for a significant increase in the number of support assistants.
The council said it had already increased additional support funding.
The EIS teaching union, however, said teachers were struggling to meet the increasingly complex needs of pupils in mainstream classes, and warned the council against trying for "inclusion on the cheap".
The letter from Sean Bell, the senior manager for children with additional support needs, told head teachers of a change in the arrangements for what are called "low incidence" cases - described as "highly complex" situations that occur infrequently.
Funding has sometimes been allocated by the Additional Support For Learning Service (ASL) for an assistant, termed a PSA, to work with a pupil who needs extra help.
Mr Bell's letter tells head teachers: "The ASL service has recently received around 250 new applications for Low Incidence.
"If each of these children was to be allocated a full-time PSA we would require an additional sum of £5m. This is not possible."
The letter explains in detail how the budget has been allocated for the current financial year.
"Schools will have to work to support children with additional support needs utilising this funding and existing school budgets," the letter adds.
Edinburgh EIS secretary Alison Murphy said the letter was "devastating news" for many of the city's schools.
She said: "Head teachers will not have put in these requests for additional support lightly - if they are saying that there are 250 children in their classrooms who need one-to-one additional support, you can be sure that accurately reflects what they need if they are to have any chance of meeting the increasingly complex needs of the pupils.
"Anyone who has worked in a primary school in the last few years will know how hard all staff are working to try to ensure all pupils get the support they need to fulfil their potential.
"You cannot have 'inclusion on the cheap'."
The EIS and Unison last year highlighted concern about violence in schools, which the unions attributed to distressed children lashing out.
"These are not 'naughty' children who aren't being disciplined properly," Ms Murphy added.
"They are children who would, a few years ago, have been in special schools, with classes of 5-8 pupils, high staff ratios and teachers who have had specialist training.
"Now they are in classes of 30, with one teacher and no additional help. Is it any wonder that the children are distressed and acting out?
"And that teachers who are trying their very best to cope are going off sick with stress, or quitting altogether?"
The council said it was committed to helping the "most vulnerable children" but it described demand as "ever-increasing".
Edinburgh's education convenor, Councillor Ian Perry, said: "The administration is committed to providing pupils with additional support needs with the high quality support they require.
"There has been an increased number of children and young people requiring support and I have discussed this with the director of communities and families with a view to identifying how these needs can be met.
"We increased the budget for additional support hours this year, however, there is an ever-increasing demand and we must find ways to continue supporting our most vulnerable children."