Fears council breaking law to cope with teacher shortage

Speyside Glenlivet councillor Derek Ross believes a "worrying" amount of learning support teachers are being used to cover classes.
Speyside Glenlivet councillor Derek Ross believes a "worrying" amount of learning support teachers are being used to cover classes.

Moray Council has been accused of “failing” children after it emerged teachers dedicated to pupils with specialist needs have been pulled to cover staff shortages more than 300 times since the beginning of the year.

The region is suffering its biggest teacher recruitment crisis in living memory.

As a result, long-term temporary arrangements have been put in place with head teachers also taking lessons as a stop-gap.

Now it has been revealed that ASN (additional supports need) staff have also been used as cover for 322 primary school days since the beginning of 2017.

Moray Council admits that pulling the staff from pupils that need the support risks a “detrimental” impact on their education.

And fears have also been raised schools could fall foul of equalities legislation and risk tribunals if the practice continues.

However, authority officials have warned that if the ASN teachers had not been used then whole classes would have had to be sent home due to a lack of classroom staff.

Last night, Gillian Groves, whose son Tom attends Aberlour Primary School, revealed that parents have been raising concerns about the issue for 18 months.

Speyside Glenlivet councillor Derek Ross, a former teacher, said: “I have real sympathy for the education department – they’re doing everything in their power to recruit staff. There is a danger though that we might not fulfil our duties in terms of public access to education under equalities legislation. That would be breaking the law.”

Mr Ross called on parents to lobby the Scottish Government for extra resources to entice teachers to work in Moray.

At the end of the summer holidays the council had 42 teaching vacancies – seven of which were for ASN staff.

Mrs Groves, who lives near Fogwatt, moved her seven-year-old from Greenwards Primary School in Elgin to Aberlour due to concerns about the level of support he was getting.

Mrs Groves said: “I know Moray Council is struggling to recruit staff but if you take away the ASN teachers then you are failing those pupils automatically.”

No learning support teachers in secondary schools have been used as cover since the beginning of the year.

The issue will be discussed by the council’s children and young people’s committee on Wednesday.