The head of one of largest schools in the Highlands has spelled out to parents the “brutal reality” of cuts to pupil support.
Lawrence E Sutherland, headteacher of Cradlehall Primary in Inverness, issued a letter to parents and carers stating the changes “will have a direct impact on the teachers and pupils within the school and obviously on learning”.
Campaigners against Highland Council’s “redesign” of additional support needs and pupil support yesterday claimed the problems faced at Cradlehall are “only the tip of the iceberg”.
The local authority has axed 63 full-time equivalent posts across the Highlands in budget saving measures – and said yesterday there is “no evidence” of what Mr Sutherland is saying.
But union chiefs and campaigners said the cuts have affected more than 100 posts, as many assisted support needs (ASN) staff and pupil support assistants (PSAs) and are part time workers.
In his letter to parents and carers, the headteacher said the staffing changes would “have some impact on the support for learning and teaching available within the school this session”.
Mr Sutherland added: “As a result of the recent ASN review completed by Highland Council our ASN teaching complement has reduced to its new level of two days.
“Similarly our total PSA support time has been reduced by 55 hours per week, the equivalent of two full-time posts.
“As you will no doubt realise, this will have a direct impact on the teachers and pupils within the school and obviously on learning.
“This reduction will change the equity and access to equal learning for our pupils at all levels.”
He went on: “We trust you will continue to support the school and staff as this change comes into effect and look forward to your understanding in relation to the provision we will be able to offer over the current session.”
Barbara Irvine, of the Highland Action Group for ASN and Education, said: “This is the brutal reality of the cuts imposed across the region.
“The situation at Cradlehall is only the tip of the iceberg, and the losers are the children who desperately need the support.”
Inverness South councillor Ken Gowans, who constituency includes Cradlehall, said: “It is very concerning this letter has been issued by a headteacher to parents warning of the impact on their children.
“Parents will be very concerned by the contents of the letter and I would be interested to hear the response from Highland Council.”
Dr James Vance, interim head of education, said: “The revised ASN allocation for the school year 2019-20 was completed based on the existing model of moving staffing resource between schools in “teams”, as ASN needs change on a regular basis from school to school, as pupils are identified, or change or leave school.
“The allocation for this year is based on the same model used in previous years.
“The letter sent to Cradlehall parents implies an impact for which there is currently no evidence.
“I am saddened that parents have had their anxiety levels raised by this and we will work closely with the school to support them through this transition to ASN staffing levels more akin to those in the rest of the country.
“The resource allocation for all schools is based on need in line with current school roll and is equitable and targeted to where it is most needed.
“This approach allows greater flexibility, equity and inclusion. It is important to have a responsive, flexible and fit for purpose model in place to make best use of the resources available.
“The allocation model and processes will be reviewed during 2019 for use in 2020. This review will involve listening to staff, parents and pupils through work with advocacy groups.”
When the cuts were announced Highland Council chiefs claimed there would be “minimal impact” on pupil support staff and children in the Highlands.
According to the GMB Union more than 100 posts in total could be affected, as many are part-time workers.
They claim the move will also impact on the remaining staff of more than 1,000 as they will be taking on extra responsibilities the vacant posts would have fulfilled.