Highlands & Islands

Campaigns oppose Highland Council's school jobs redesign

Child playing Image copyright PA
Image caption Highland Council says children in most need of support will receive the help

Campaigns have been set up to oppose Highland Council's shake-up of jobs in its schools.

The council has begun a three-year "phased approach" to reducing numbers of additional support needs teachers and pupil support assistants.

It said the roles will be targeted at the children in most need of support.

A petition opposing the changes has gathered more than 5,000 names so far, while parents in Grantown on Spey have launched a campaign.

Friends of Autism Highland and Highland Action Group for ASN and Education are also calling for a halt to the redesign.

Concerns have been raised that some children will miss out on the help they currently get from additional support needs (ASNs) teachers and pupil support assistants (PSAs).

Campaigners warned that PSAs on fixed term contracts could lose their jobs before the end of the academic term.

'Nurturing and encouraging'

Highland Council said it was committed to avoiding redundancies.

It said a training programme to help ASNs take up other teaching roles and for PSAs to find work in new roles in early learning and childcare was in development.

But Ingrid Artus, chairwoman of Friends of Grantown Primary School, said: "These cuts will not just have an impact on our children who need a bit of extra help with their learning in school.

"These cuts will affect children who have suffered a bereavement, ill-health, significant learning difficulties and those who require some extra day to day work with their school work.

"These cuts will have an immense long term impact on the education of our children who are our future workforce."

She added: "We should be nurturing and encouraging their education instead of working out how to deliver the absolute minimum."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Campaigners say pupils facing all kinds of challenges benefit from support offered by ASNs and PSAs

Highland Council said staff were advised that to avoid the need for redundancies it would use "vacancy controls, reallocations, retraining and internal deployment" to "reconfigure the workforce to a more efficient and effective model".

The local authority said children would continue to be provided with "appropriate levels of support".

'Misinformation and rumour'

A spokeswoman said: "A phased approach will be taken to resource allocation so that it is equitable and targeted to where it is most needed. We will be identifying resource allocations for next year and these will be available in May.

"The council will work with staff interested in any vacancies based on previous experience or current skill sets.

"Vacancies and other opportunities do include early years practitioner posts training for which will be paid for by Highland Council."

The local authority later added: "There is a lot of misinformation and rumour circulating, particularly on social media and this will cause unnecessary worry.

"We appreciate that this is an uncertain time and we will do everything we can to clarify any queries."

The council said the allocation of staff would become clearer next month.

It added: "However, the staffing numbers actually affected by the change this year are relatively minor in terms of the whole PSA workforce."

Last month, Highland Council said it had the highest reported levels of ASNs in Scotland.

It spends £36.1m on its ASN budget to support 1,253 full-time equivalent jobs.

The local authority said it currently has 13,461 pupils who have been identified as having a need for at least one ASN.

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