A 17 year old Highland student yesterday rallied a protest at Highland Council headquarters against forthcoming education cuts.
Skye Hawkins and around 20 fellow protestors raised placards in front of the building and asked motorists to sound their horns in support.
The council will next month put detail on how it will allocate resources to the Additional Support Needs (ASN) service.
The service has been cut by £2.8m despite spiralling numbers for pupils with support needs.
The cuts have prompted fears that the numbers of Pupil Support Assistants (PSA) will be dramatically reduced.
Skye, who has been diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder and autism spectrum disorder, said the help she received from PSAs and a principal teacher while she was a pupil at Glen Urquhart High School enabled her to continue with her education.
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She said: “I couldn’t stay in classrooms for long periods of time and the whole environment became so oppressive that I couldn’t go to school any more.
“I was given a phased return to school and use of the learning support base whenever I wanted. That’s where kids can go when we feel we need extra help or can’t cope in the classroom.
“I missed an entire year because of my anxiety and without their support I would never have gone back, I wouldn’t even have considered it was a possibility until they brought me into school and said ‘here’s what we can do for you, do you think you could try this?'”
Skye said she had rallied the protest to demonstrate to the council how important the support is.
She said: “Potentially rolling back on it even a small amount could have a disastrous impact.
“Some of my friends who are here today were in the support system, whereas others are trying to say even with the current system they think it could be better.”
Skye said she had “more than enough” help once her diagnosis had been made but things were more difficult for children who were undiagnosed.
She said: “Kids without a diagnosis need to get more support than they are currently, I do think there are things that can be improved in the current system.”
Skye is now taking a media course at UHI.
She said: “I’m so proud of myself for coming this far and I really couldn’t have done it without the school’s help. I’m so grateful to them for getting me to this stage.”
Senior figures from the council administration came out to talk to the protestors, and invited them inside to hear what they had to say.
Chief executive Donna Manson said: “The high quality support that Skye had will continue, I’m quite confident about that.
“Once we’ve allocated the resources in May, we’ll work with young people and parent support groups in the re-designing of support needs in the council so that we can improve it and make and more efficient.”