Fury at ‘at­tack’ on spe­cial needs

Shock at pro­pos­als to re­duce ser­vices for pupils with ad­di­tional sup­port needs

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID MACKAY

CUTS to spe­cial­ist sup­port for Mo­ray school pupils have been crit­i­cised as an “at­tack on the most vul­ner­a­ble”.

The coun­cil has pro­posed re­duc- ing learn­ing sup­port for chil­dren who need help in class, as part of a bud­get aimed at avoid­ing bank­ruptcy for the author­ity.

Last night, unions warned the pro­posal put Mo­ray Coun­cil at risk of fail­ing in its responsibilities for chil­dren. Coun­cil leader Ge­orge Alexan­der ad­mit­ted learn­ing sup­port ser­vices were “dif­fi­cult” to in­clude in the con­sul­ta­tion but stressed par­ents would not see changes in the ser­vice.

How­ever, Gil­lian Groves, whose son has cere­bral palsy, branded the pro­pos­als “shock­ing”. She said: “These are ser­vices that some chil­dren need just to be able to go to school.”

Bud­get cuts that could hit chil­dren with spe­cialised learn­ing needs have been crit­i­cised as an “at­tack on the most vul­ner­a­ble”.

Re­duc­tions to ser­vices for school pupils with ad­di­tional sup­port needs (ASN) have been in­cluded in Mo­ray Coun­cil’s fi­nan­cial con­sul­ta­tion.

Yes­ter­day, the “shock­ing” pro­posal left one mother fum­ing while a mem­ber of staff at a sec­ondary school aired their con­cerns.

Coun­cil leader Ge­orge Alexan­der ex­plained it was a “dif­fi­cult” choice to in­clude the pro­pos­als in the bud­get con­sul­ta­tion but stressed he had been as­sured par­ents would see “no dif­fer­ence in the ser­vice”.

How­ever, Gil­lian Groves, whose wheel­chair-bound son Tom re­quires spe­cial as­sis­tance due to cere­bral palsy, fears chil­dren are seen as “easy tar­gets”.

The Fog­watt mum, who works as an in­de­pen­dent ad­vo­cate for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, said: “Teach­ers are be­ing re­lied upon more and more to pro­vide sup­port for our chil­dren.

“Some teach­ers are al­ready con­cerned they are not able to pro­vide the right sup­port for pupils be­cause they don’t have the right train­ing and spe­cialised staff aren’t avail­able.

“I know the coun­cil has to cut fund­ing to get out of the red but I’m speech­less at this. These are ser­vices that some chil­dren need just to be able to go to school.”

ASN staff work with pupils and fam­i­lies to cre­ate tai­lored sup­port to en­hance op­por­tu­ni­ties in schools.

The coun­cil’s in­de­pen­dent and Con­ser­va­tive ad­min­is­tra­tion has pro­posed a re­duc­tion in be­havioural sup­port fund­ing, the ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­ogy ser­vice and home­school link work­ers.

If all those pro­pos­als are ap­proved as part of the fi­nal bud­get in Fe­bru­ary then it would save the author­ity £391,000.

The author­ity is cur­rently at­tempt­ing to plug a £23mil­lion gap in its fund­ing over the next two years in the face of ex­pected de­clin­ing sup­port from UK and Scot­tish gov­ern­ments.

One mem­ber of staff at a Mo­ray sec­ondary school, who did not want to be named, said: “This is an at­tack on the most vul­ner- able in our com­mu­nity. It doesn’t make any sense, other than fi­nan­cial.

“Ax­e­ing spe­cial­ist po­si­tions may be a cost-ef­fec­tive way to man­age a bud­get but it will mean the loss of a vi­tal, much-needed and ap­pre­ci­ated ser­vice for dis­abled stu­dents and fam­i­lies who need it the most.”

A joint state­ment from Mo­ray Coun­cil’s trade unions added: “We know the fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion is dif­fi­cult but cuts to jobs and ser­vices will not ad­dress that – it will sim­ply in­crease the pres­sure on the re­main­ing staff.

“The pro­pos­als put for­ward are short-sighted, lack co­her­ence and, wor­ry­ingly, leave grave con­cerns about how the coun­cil will ful­fil its statu­tory re­quire­ments in some areas – ASN for chil­dren be­ing only one ex­am­ple.”

Mo­ray Coun­cil is cur­rently em­bark­ing on a con­sul­ta­tion with res­i­dents un­til Jan­uary 14.

Mr Alexan­der said: “I’ve been told that the ASN sav­ings won’t make any dif­fer­ence to the ser­vice but will tar­get posts that have been va­cant long-term and staff have been cop­ing un­til now.

“We can make bet­ter use of our ser­vices though. It’s very dif­fi­cult to pro­vide spe­cialised staff in ev­ery one of our 54 schools.”

“Loss of a vi­tal, much-needed and ap­pre­ci­ated ser­vice”

CON­CERNS: Gil­lian Glover, with son Tom, fears chil­dren are seen as ‘easy tar­gets’ for the coun­cil bud­get cuts

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