An Aviemore mum has mounted an online petition to raise wider awareness of the looming cuts in Highland Council’s Addition Support Needs(ASN) budget.
Carole Butler’s change.org petition had more than 3,000 signatures in less than 20 hours, but she says she wants to see a lot more, and not just from ASN parents.
The council wants to cut more than £2m from ASN over the next three years in what is described as a ‘transformational’ redesign, agreed by councillors in its February budget-setting meeting.
It will take £1.06m out of its ASN budget in the forthcoming financial year, including £700,000 in ‘re-allocation’ of Pupil Support Assistants (PSAs).
Mrs Butler’s two primary age children don’t have special needs, but she says all parents need to engage with the cuts as they will affect all children.
Her petition reads: ‘The Highland Council is about to embark on a series of budget cuts that have major implications for everyone. They are removing specialist Additional Support Needs (ASN) teachers and drastically cutting the number of Pupil Support Assistants (PSAs), therefore critically reducing the support available to ALL children within the school system.
‘These cuts will effect ALL children, there will be a reduction in available teaching time for all; effecting both primary and secondary school children.
‘We need to fight this, it is wrong for both our children and their hardworking teaching staff to reduce the quality of our education provision. Our children need to be supported throughout the school system regardless of their ability, in a positive and understanding environment.’
Mrs Butler said: “I put up the petition because someone has to do something. In Aviemore primary there is a higher than average level of ASN children and the 12 PSAs in the school do vitally important work enabling all pupils to receive an education.
“The knock on effect of not having them will have a huge impact on the whole school.”
Mrs Butler also organised a parent meeting in Aviemore yesterday attended by parents of ASN and non-ASN children.
She said ‘an appetite to do something’ is gathering pace, and may lead to direct protests to the council.
She said: “We’ve started talking about getting two representatives from every area to go to the council. It’s early days yet and we have another meeting on Tuesday which could take our ideas further.”
A spokeswoman for Highland Council said: “In discussions with head teachers it has been recognised that the current allocation process requires to be reviewed to ensure there is a fit for purpose process in place that also meets the changing needs of both our children and our school settings.
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“A phased approach will be taken to resource allocation so that it is equitable and targeted to where it is most needed.
“To avoid the need for redundancies, vacancy controls, re-allocations, retraining and internal deployment will be used to reconfigure the workforce to a more efficient and effective model which will continue to provide the appropriate levels of support to children to enable them to achieve their best potential.
“Pupils with lower levels of identified needs will usually be appropriately supported within the classroom by the class teacher, who will use differentiated materials or a range of other identified strategies to make learning accessible.
“We will continue to target support to those pupils with significant and complex support needs.”