‘Significant cuts’ in education roles in Highlands proposed

CREDIT: This story was first seen in BBC News

Highland Council has warned teachers of the potential for “significant reductions” in additional support needs staff and pupil support assistants, BBC News reports.

The local authority said other cuts being considered would affect services such as behaviour support and English as an additional language.

The details are in a letter sent from the council to head teachers.

In a statement, Highland Council said a “wide range of proposals” were being considered to help it make savings.

The local authority’s Independent-Lib Dem-Labour administration is having to tackle an estimated budget gap of £25.8m in the coming financial year due what it what it calls the “scale of cuts imposed on the council over successive years”.

SNP councillor and former Dingwall Academy rector, Graham MacKenzie, has described the council’s proposed cuts as “appalling” and said they would “worsen” the attainment gap in the Highlands.

Teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said it would be concerned if the council pushed ahead with the proposals.

In the letter, the council said reductions in additional support needs teachers and pupil support assistants had been proposed.

However, it added that vacancies and the turnover in these roles were “likely to protect all those presently in post”.

Also proposed is a reduction in specialist additional support services, excluding NHS Highland-funded services.

The letter said: “This is likely to impact in educational psychology, behaviour support, English as an additional language, interrupted learning, autism, assistive technology, and pre-school support services.”

About 40 teaching posts could also be cut. This would affect medium-sized and larger secondary schools.

Other possible savings outlined include having fewer crossing patrol personnel and “significantly” reducing funding to Inverness’ Eden Court Theatre and to High Life Highland, which operates council-owned leisure centres, museums and libraries.

The proposals will be considered by councillors on 15 February.

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In its statement, Highland Council said: “We have managed to protect education in previous years, and there were no new saving measures for schools last year.

“But the scale of cuts imposed on the council over successive years means it is no longer possible to sustain that level of protection.

“We remain committed to supporting education and maintaining teacher numbers as far as we can, and especially for primary schools and rural communities.”

It added “Other councils have made savings on additional need services in previous years, and we are now having to consider that.

“Other than this, there will be no reduction in teacher numbers in 90% of Highland schools, as we will protect all primary schools and our smaller secondary schools.”

Alistair Bell, Highlands secretary of the EIS, said that while the details set out in the letter were only proposals at this stage they were still a cause for concern.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “If this is what is going to happen it is a grave situation for what is already a stretched service.

“At a time when the Scottish government is asking teachers in schools to bridge the attainment gap, this can only hinder that process.”

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