Council slammed over ‘mystery’ as many parents and children with additional support needs (ASN) are still waiting to learn what level of in-school assistance will be available in the new term, as schools get ready to break up for the summer
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MANY parents of children with additional support needs (ASN) are still waiting to learn what level of in-school assistance will be available in the new school term, as schools get ready to break up for the summer.
The Courier reported earlier this week how parents of ASN pupils at Millbank Primary in Nairn were furious at the possibility the school could be about to lose one ASN teacher and six personal support assistants (PSAs).
Cuts in support sparked several protests by parents and pupils outside council headquarters in 2019 and 2020.
Nairn parents wrote to council chief executive Donna Manson, head of education Nicky Grant, councillors and Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing to express their concerns, telling them: “Reducing the staff in the ASN unit will lead to an unsafe environment where pupils cannot be adequately supervised or supported. It seems unlikely that remaining staff would be able to meet basic needs such as personal care or protection from injury.
“It would be impossible to provide the high level of support required to assist our children in their learning and development.”
Yesterday the council said the school will in fact lose only two PSAs. However, it would not reveal support levels for other schools.
A spokeswoman said: “ASN managers have discussed allocations for the next session and will continue to engage with head teachers.”
She also confirmed that all PSAs who have held a temporary contract for two years or longer will be offered a permanent one with effect from July 1, but the lack of a clearer picture left one Highland councillor furious.
But further concerns have since emerged as the next education committee will only be held in September – deep into the school term – meaning a potential lack of scrutiny according to one member.
Councillor Andrew Jarvie said: “It’s a new school term but there is nothing new about the way this council shrouds ASN support in mystery.
“For what is an essential support to remove barriers and ensure all pupils can achieve their best, it is a disgrace that parents don’t know what, if any, support their child will receive. Just when will this council understand the profound implications their decisions have?”
And he added: “However, what angers me the most is that councillors have no ability to change any of these policies. Why? Because the chief executive apparently cancelled all committee meetings for June, so the education committee meeting due to take place on June 23 will now not happen until September 15 – well into the new term.”
Carrie Watts, chairwoman of the local branch of the National Autistic Society, was also unhappy.
She said: “I have worked with many families who would disagree that the Highland Council works in partnership with parents.
“Most families with kids with ASN have to fight tooth and nail to get an absolute minimum of support – and this is not assigning blame to the teachers, who are doing their absolute best with what they have. But they are simply not being given adequate resources.”
She added that moving ASN teachers or PSAs around different schools was not good for the kids while question how much support they actually got.
“They are simply not being given adequate resources," she added. "Some of this comes down to the council policy of ending contracts for PSAs at the end of each school year; there is no guarantee for those people that they will be rehired for the next term, which causes enormous stress for both the PSAs and the ASN kids who don’t know who they will see when they are back in school.”