Highlands & Islands

Highland Council sets out classroom staff cuts plan

Child playing Image copyright PA
Image caption PSAs help teachers in classrooms and in playgrounds

Highland Council says it can achieve cutbacks in its classroom additional needs support service while causing minimal disruption to people's jobs.

The local authority wants to reduce its workforce of 1,100 pupil support assistants (PSAs).

It said 50 posts could be cut by not filling current vacancies and jobs due to become vacant by the end of term.

About 11 PSAs are to be offered alternative employment with the council.

The reduction in PSAs forms part of Highland Council's efforts to achieve a saving of £700,000 this year, before further saving over the next two years.

The local authority has also sought to make savings in its additional support needs (ASN) teacher budget.

It said it was working with staff, trade unions and parents on how to achieve this area of its redesign of its additional needs support service.

'Smooth transition'

Highland Council has faced opposition to its reduction in staff numbers.

PSAs help teachers to meet pupils' emotional and educational needs in classrooms and in playgrounds.

Earlier this month, the union GMB Scotland balloted its members on potential industrial action.

The union said Highland Council's redesign was being driven by cuts, and not the interests of children or employees.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Pupils, parents and carers are concerned some children will lose the support they currently receive

The local authority's budget leader Alister Mackinnon said it had taken a collaborative approach to achieving changes to the service.

He said: "We have been working closely with staff, trade unions and interest groups as we determined how best to meet the ASN allocation requirements.

"Now that we have reached our conclusion we will continue to work with affected staff in ensuring a smooth transition.

"We look forward to implementing our teacher training, as well as working alongside our parent and pupil advocates, once they are appointed, as work on the ASN redesign project progresses."

Mum and autism campaigner Barbara Irvine, of Inverness, said many questions remained over the council's redesign.

She said: "If they have held back 50 posts why? Did we never need these posts refilled throughout the year?

"Parents are asking for support for their children only to be told at meetings there are no staff to support the child."

"Also we have heard very little about ASN teaching posts. Where is Highland Council with the allocations for this?

"How many ASN teaching posts have they identified aren't required, and what are the reasons they are no longer required?"

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