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Concerns grow over cuts to ASN in Highland Council schools

By Scott Maclennan

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Highland Council news.
Highland Council news.

More people have expressed their mounting concern about Highland Council’s phased funding reductions to additional support needs provision in schools.

The council aims to save up to £5.9 million from the £36.1 million budget for ASNs over the next three years with the region having the highest reported number of ASN cases in Scotland.

Both the council and members hope that attainment or the reaching of outcomes for pupils can be raised by training teachers to deal with ASN pupils and reintroducing them to mainstream learning.

But it was particularly that move to bring children with “substantial” support needs at stages three and four on the ASN matrix back in the classroom that has sparked the outcry from parents, pupil support assistants and teachers.

A spokesperson for local teachers and pupil support assistants who spoke to the Strathy on condition of anonymity said that most are concerned not about their job security but about the future of ASN provision and how it will impact all children in the classroom.

“The overriding concern of most PSAs is not about their job but about what happens to these children when these changes are brought in,” they said.

“The vision of the classroom that has been painted for me is one of utter chaos where it is impossible to teach or learn.

“Mainstream kids will be affected because teachers would have to deal with ASNs pupils who perhaps had behavioural issues that are triggered by sensory issues, so while they were dealing with that what happens to the rest of the class?”

The council has promised to try and avoid compulsory redundancies by redeploying PSAs to different roles

However, job security did feature in their concerns with the spokesperson saying: “For PSAs it is very, very scary – they feel the future of their jobs are under threat, as well as the mental health and well-being of pupils and teachers.”

Chairman of the council's care and learning committee John Finlayson said the priority would be delivering a service that worked.

“In addition to public and staff engagement, there has been extensive engagement with head teachers both in November and again in the New Year,” he said.

“In discussions with head teachers it has been recognised that the current allocation process has resulted in allocations in excess of the national average and beyond available resources.

“We will continue to target support to those pupils with greatest needs and there will be no reduction in the quality of support given to our pupils with significant and complex support needs.

“A training programme for teachers and PSAs is currently being developed for implementation from May 2019. Briefing packs have been prepared for staff and information on the process of change will be communicated over the coming weeks.

“Budget savings have been phased over three years to allow sufficient time to make the necessary changes and teachers and PSAs will be supported through the change process.

“The council is committed to protecting jobs, making changes without the need for redundancies wherever possible while continuing to meet the needs of all pupils.”

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