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Outcry over cuts to additional support needs teaching

Highland Council will reduce spending on specialist teachers by £5.9m over the next three years.

Concerns: Carrie Watts says parents have not been listened to.
Concerns: Carrie Watts says parents have not been listened to. STV

The council with Scotland's highest proportion of pupils with additional support needs (ASN) is facing threats of legal action.

Parents and teachers are furious that Highland councillors have slashed funding for specialist teachers to help bridge budget gaps over the next three years.

A public meeting was held in Aviemore this week to discuss the council's decision to cut its ASN budget by £5.9m over the next three years.

Meanwhile, a petition demanding a u-turn has had more than 6000 signatures.

Carole Butler, who is campaigning against the cuts, said: "It has a knock-on effect on every single child within the school system - not only ASN, it's every single child and it could be truly terrible.

"I wonder what will happen to staffing within the teaching profession, because you're asking an awful lot of teaching staff to deal with all those children across the whole spectrum."

The council currently spends £36m on ASN for 12,500 pupils. That includes 40% of secondary pupils, 10% above the national average.

Carrie Watts, a parent from Inverness, is considering legal action against the council over the cuts.

She claims the council has not taken the concerns of parents or support organisations into account.

"Speaking to a few head teachers and saying 'this is what we're doing, hope you're okay with it because this is what we're doing' is not actually doing a fair evaluation of the situation," she said.

'Speaking to a few head teachers and saying 'this is what we're doing, hope you're okay with it because this is what we're doing' is not actually doing a fair evaluation of the situation'
Carrie Watts, parent

Highland Council said the current funding allocation process was reviewed to ensure there was a "fit-for-purpose" system that would "meet the changing needs of children and our school settings".

The council, which turned down an interview request from STV, also said it had undertaken "extensive engagement" with head teachers over the move.

However, one councillor agrees with those parents who believe the changes have not been properly evaluated.

Andrew Jarvie, leader of the council's Conservative group, said: "What does it mean? How many people will be made redundant? They say none, or they'll be given jobs but we don't know exact numbers.

"All I've been told specifically is that children at level three and four won't lose their support but does that mean they will lose some hours? There are some children who will have to have dedicated one-to-one support the whole time in the classroom as their needs are so profound."

According to the council, to avoid a need for redundancies, "retraining and internal deployment will be used to reconfigure the workforce to be more efficient."

The changes will be phased in from September.

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