Highlands & Islands

Protests against Highland Council classroom cuts


Parents and carers are taking part in demonstrations against changes to additional support needs provision in Highland classrooms.

The number of additional support needs teachers (ASNs) and pupil support assistants are to be reduced over the next three years.

Highland Council said children would continue to get "appropriate levels of support".

But protestors are concerned some children will lose the help they need.

Highland Action Group for ASN and Education is holding protests outside local authority offices in Inverness, Fort William, Golspie, Ullapool and Wick.

Highland Council has faced opposition since the beginning of the year to its move to reduce staff numbers and protests were held by pupils and parents in April.

The local authority said it had met with parents and representatives from numerous interest groups to discuss the future shape of classroom support.

Image caption Campaigner Barbara Irvine said parents were not consulted before the re-design process began

The council 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.

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

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

Campaigner Barbara Irvine said Highland Council should have held discussions on the re-design when it was still in the planning stage.

She said: "There was no consultation prior to the re-design being implemented with parents, third sector services or charities.

"If it had been done there would have been a more balanced way to move forward."

A council spokeswoman said: "We can reassure parents and staff that the changes this year are being managed to ensure support for our pupils.

"We have over 1,100 PSA staff who will continue to work in this area and we remain committed to supporting all affected staff, who have been advised of changes by their head teacher, in ensuring a smooth transition.

"As the ASN redesign project progresses we also look forward to implementing our new training and development programme which is being made available to all school staff."

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