Highland Council begins shake-up of ASN and PSA school roles

Pupil genericImage source, PA

Highland Council has said it is "committed" to avoiding redundancies as it begins a shake-up of school jobs.

The authority said it had the highest reported levels of additional support needs (ASN) teachers in Scotland.

It is beginning a three-year "phased approach" to targeting this role to "where it is most needed".

In line with its budget agreed last month, the council said there will also be a "re-allocation" of pupil support assistants (PSA) resourcing.

The budget for ASNs is to be reduced, while PSA roles are to be reduced over the next three years.

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 is in development.

'Not enough support'

Highland Council said the training could be implemented from May.

It said briefing packs had been prepared for staff and information on the process of change would be communicated over the coming days, with the council "working closely with trade unions".

Although the ASN budget is being reduced, Highland Council said the Scottish government had committed to extend the early learning and childcare entitlement to all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds from 600 to 1,140 hours by 2020.

"Significant funding" to meet these increased hours has been provided, the local authority said.

Highland Council said it spends £36.1m on its ASN budget to support 1,253 full-time equivalent jobs.

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

Friends of Autism Highland said that some parents were "terrified" that their children will receive no additional support.

A spokeswoman said: "As the largest autism charity in the Highlands, we help to support over 440 families affected by autism. Some of these families have more than one autistic child.

"What is constantly being fed back from our families is that there is not enough additional support needs provision available for their children.

"Some children are already being denied an education as there is not adequate provisional to allow them to attend school, and some children are only being offered a few hours of schooling a week because, again, there is not enough support available to enable them to attend school."