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BREAKING: Highland Council vows to cut 'far fewer pupil support assistant posts than originally expected'

By Andrew Dixon

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HIGHLAND Council has declared "there will be minimal impact on pupil support assistant (PSA) posts" in coming weeks due to "extensive work done to protect staff".

Fears had been raised that budget cuts would affect the service for children with additional support needs negatively.

The local authority says the protection of staff comes from not filling almost 51 vacant posts and "identifying other opportunities within the council".

Discussions with staff are taking place over the next few days.

A council spokeswoman said: "We have committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies. PSAs will be given priority to move into new and vacant posts and they will be offered one-to-one discussions with a HR adviser if they wish, as well as access to a career coach and a guaranteed interview for any relevant post arising.

"Only one per cent of PSA staff are required to move into new roles – far fewer than originally expected."

There are currently more than 1100 PSAs and the council has identified 63 (full-time equivalent) posts to be cut from after the summer holidays. Of these, almost 51 come from through deleting posts that are currently vacant "and will be vacant by the end of term".

It means there are around 11 (full-time equivalent) PSA staff to be "supported into alternative employment with the council". Just under 10 are in south Highland and under two in the north Highland.

The spokeswoman added: "There may be some changes across a few schools where the needs of pupils have changed and PSA support will follow that need, but this is part of the normal allocations process and is not affected by the need to reduce the number of PSA posts.

"Teacher training to support inclusive education has been developed and will be rolled out first to those schools affected by reductions in staffing to meet the needs of pupils. This will include training across all staff groups in schools in communication, nurture, resilience and autism, to support a more inclusive education system with an emphasis on staff wellbeing to relieve stress and reduce absence."

Following discussions with parents, a proposal was agreed on May 9, as part of the council'c change programme fund, to allocate resource for "parent and pupil advocacy to ensure inclusion of the parent voice in the additional support needs (ASN) redesign".

Councillor Alister Mackinnon.
Councillor Alister Mackinnon.

Council budget leader Alister Mackinnon said: “We have been working closely with staff, trade unions and interest groups as we are determined [to see] how best to meet the ASN allocation requirements.

"Now that we have reached our conclusion we will continue to work with affected staff in ensuring a smooth transition. We look forward to implementing our teacher training, as well as working alongside our parent and pupil advocates, once they are appointed, as work on the ASN redesign project progresses."

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