PARENTS OF CHILDREN with special needs in Moray are gathering themselves for a battle with Moray Council as they fear wholesale redundancies for specialist staff.
While the local authority is yet to confirm their precise intentions, several parents insist that some classroom support assistants have already been told they will not have a job after the summer holidays.
Currently, Moray Council is undertaking a review on how it provides support for pupils with additional needs throughout its school estate. This week the chair of the children and young people’s services committee, Councillor Anne Skene, insisted that the plans involved some reorganisation – and confirmed that jobs would be lost “at some schools”.
However, she insisted that the precise changes in each school would depend on “the individual nature of children who go to them”, adding: “Some schools will get a reduction in hours, some will get an increase in hours. That inevitably means the schools getting a reduction will employ less staff – and those with more hours will get more staff.”
Councillor Skene added that the formula being used was “very complicated” but insisted that with the council facing drastically reduced budgets it was a “very difficult situation.”
Parents, however, were last night insisting that while they recognised the pressures now facing the local authority, there were ‘no-go’ areas in education – and this was one of these.
One parent, Martin Duggan, told insideMoray: “As a parent of three children who all have special needs, this decision downright scares me.
“My son is currently being assessed for Autism/ADHD and gets a lot of classroom support. As his problems are not physical, I fear that the support he will get in the coming months is likely to disappear.
“He is prone to aggressive outbursts and requires the support workers to not only keep him calm but keep him and other children safe. Without this help, he would likely be permanently excluded from school and be without an education.”
Mr Duggan added that any reduction in one-to-one care in schools for children facing challenges would be devastating in a number of ways, invariably leading to higher staff stress with more children for each support worker. That in turn would likely lead to higher absence – and perhaps an even greater shortage of available staff.
He added: “There is a shortage of support and teachers in Moray schools as it is and doing this is only going to make the problems worse. It will lower the education quality for those kids who require the support and those who are fortunate enough not to have problems, as the lack of extra support will undoubtedly lead to more disruption in classrooms.
“I’m deeply worried that this decision has been taken without any engagement with parents at all – and right before the holidays so that after the summer everyone will just be expected to ‘figure it out’.”
Mr Duggan has written to Angus Robertson MP as well as local MSPs and Councillors seeking their comments on what many parents are seeing as a growing crisis for education in Moray.
An EIS spokesman also expressed concern over any plans to reduce classroom assistant provision in the region, saying: “The loss of specialists from the classroom will remove vital support for young people who require it – and place additional workload pressures on class teachers.”
Last night Douglas Ross MSP told insideMoray that he had noted the situation and would be writing to the Moray Council to ensure that parents were properly consulted and informed.
He said “I too share the concerns of parents throughout Moray who are quite rightly deeply worried over the possibility that vital support staff will be removed from post. It is of paramount importance that the local authority takes on board the concerns of the parents as well as fully appreciating the needs of the pupils to allow them to fully engage in their education.
“I will be contacting Moray Council to ensure that no decisions are made in haste without proper consideration.”