There will be no cut in funding for support staff in Highland schools, the local authority confirmed this week.
Highland Council have said it will sustain the current funding for additional support needs in primary and secondary schools for 2016/17.
At the council’s budget meeting in February, members were told that applications for voluntary redundancy had been received from pupil support assistants, but because these staff were supporting individual children in schools they could not be accepted without further assessment of needs.
The council have now confirmed that while voluntary redundancies have been agreed with managers in additional support services, the allocation to schools will continue at the current level, and there will be no reduction in the overall number of pupil support assistants. This is due to the further assessment of needs being completed and the council already achieving its voluntary redundancy savings target from other staff groups.
However, the council have said there will be some changes in the level of staffing to a number of schools as the local allocation is adjusted to take account of local needs. This means that where need has increased, there will be additional pupil support assistants, and where there has been a proportionate reduction, there will be fewer. The additional funding will be able to assist with transitional arrangements in local areas, assisting some schools where the changes are greatest.
Highland Council leader, Councillor Margaret Davidson said: “The council administration gave a commitment that we would sustain and not reduce the allocation of additional support services to schools. I am delighted today, that we can confirm that we will deliver on that commitment – even at this time of significant budget challenge. I know how important these services are to families and communities. There has been a lot of parental concern about the ASN budget, to which we have listened, and I am very pleased to make this announcement.”
Councillor Drew Millar, chair of the education, children and adult services committee, added: “This means that the overall number of pupil support assistants across the authority will be sustained at around 670 posts. In order to meet local needs we will continue to make adjustments to ensure that children get the appropriate level of support, while also looking at transitional arrangements in areas that face the greatest challenges. I have been very keen to protect the number of pupil support assistants and I am pleased that this has been achieved.”
The news was also welcomed by Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes. She said: “It is great news that Highland Council have made a commitment to maintain the number of pupil support assistants. A number of concerned parents across my constituency had emailed and phoned about this important matter, and it’s clear how crucial additional support staff are in our schools.
“The principle that support follows the children who need it most is one I support, but I realise that with pupils moving onto new schools and so on, this will need to be managed as sensitively as possible. Education is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s agenda, in particular closing the attainment gap.
“So many parents and teachers depend on additional support assistance to enable children to fulfil their full learning potential, so the announcement from Highland Council is a welcome one given how things were looking a matter of days ago.”