£2.8m cut from Highland schools' additional support needs

As reported by Press and Journal, Highland Council is struggling to save money – and this is set to hit additional support needs in the area’s schools

Cash reserves are at a historic low for Highland Council – something which could negatively impact education in the area.

Approved proposals to save £37.5m over the next three years have led to £2.8m in additional support needs (ASN) being cut.

A former teacher claimed that this effectively involved removing all specialist staff and was the wrong area to target.

One councillor admitted voting the cuts through was a “leap of faith” and called for the management to be impacted, rather than frontline staff.

Caithness councillor, Nicola Sinclair, said: “All education cuts require a leap of faith. We haven’t done a redesign process here, we are trusting in the administration and the new chief executive officer (Donna Manson).

“I completely agree we need to simplify, remove waste and overprovision, remove the paperwork burden and tiers of management, but not frontline ASN staff. Parents want to keep ASNs and PSAs.”

The aforementioned former teacher told Press and Journal: “This ‘restructuring’ is effectively removing all specialist staff and transferring all responsibility for special needs on to the already massively overstretched classroom teachers.

“They will have lots of extra paperwork and responsibility which they are not trained for and they will now have no support in their classes at all, except for children with the most severe needs.

“Teachers cannot cope with this and I believe the whole system could crumble if these changes are implemented.”

Manson added: “We’ve been meeting with head teachers since November and I’ve been inspired because they recognise that we’ve got an issue and we’ve not been getting the outcomes we need for our children.”

She added that the council’s new Change Fund would be used this year to support the changes. She said: “The head teachers have been saying they’d like to see a whole system approach to nurturing our schools.

“There will still going to be considerable pupil support resource when you compare it to other councils but we need to get underneath why we’ve got our children being labelled at 40% special needs.”

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