Councillors’ Decision on Cuts Detrimental to Pupils

scissorsOrkney Islands Council’s decision to cut services to children with additional needs has been criticised by trade union leaders.

The cuts will see at least a total of £96,000 slashed from the budgets of services which directly affect children and young people with additional needs.

  • Support for learning –  £65,000
  • Support for learning transport – £6,000
  • Educational psychology – £10,000
  • Summer play scheme –  £15,000

Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, is composed of teachers in both the primary and secondary sector. EIS Orkney Secretary Mary Maley said:

“As teachers, we know only too well the vital role Support for Learning Assistants play in Orkney’s schools.  Our SfLA colleagues do a tremendous job in helping pupils, with a wide range of needs, to access the curriculum and reach their full potential.

“In discussions with council representatives, we have always stated the importance of appropriate support for pupils.  The cuts to education that have occurred in previous years have, sadly, been felt in the classrooms in Orkney, as they have across Scotland.  We are very concerned about the removal of Support for Learning Assistant posts; it is a move that, if implemented, will have a detrimental effect on our pupils, the workload of our members, the culture and ethos of our schools and attainment results across the authority.

“The EIS is strongly opposed to any reductions in education spending, both nationally and in Orkney, and hope that the decision to cut SfLA posts is revisited and overturned as a matter of urgency.”

The Orkney branch of the GMB is alarmed at the extent and impact of the cuts. Orkney Branch Secretary Mark Vincent said:

“These cuts are sure to have a lasting and far reaching impact to our members, their children, their families and to the wider community in the future if they are allowed to go ahead.”

The GMB insist that there are a growing number of children requiring support in Orkney schools.

“During the staff meetings held it became apparent through the SFLAs’ [Support for Learning Assistants] that there are children, vulnerable members of the community, who have been assessed and identified as requiring help to assist them through the educational process who are still awaiting help!

“Do these facts not show that there is a shortfall in the service rather than a need to thin the service down? If you add on to this the fact that the decision has already been reached to close the dedicated Language Unit and that it is said in doing this that the SFLAs at the schools will be picking up the extra work that this service used to do on their own.”

The GMB were informed by the council that there was a “formula” to determine which children who require support would get it. Despite having asked for evidence of this “formula” the GMB insist that this has remained unanswered.

Mark Vincent continued:

“We were also told that where schools had needs but not enough hours allocated to them that, SFLAs from other schools would be deployed to assist. I asked how this was to be achieved? The answer from Life Long Learning was that there was a policy for “redeployment” and that they would follow this, I at this point had to point out that we were talking about “deployment” not “redeployment” and there is no policy for this!

“I feel that this is another point not investigated thoroughly, indeed has anyone looked into this at all? Personnel without transport, no insurance for business use etc. Will the perceived savings be swallowed up in paying for the cost of transporting SFLAs all over the county?

“Who has even indeed looked into how much “deployment” is going to be needed and the forecasted budget implications of travel cost? To my knowledge none of these issues have been fully investigated.”

The GMB also feels that there are equality issues at stake here for children with additional needs and is puzzled as to where the cuts fit into the recently launched  “Draft Council Plan for the next 5 years”?

Mark Vincent said:

“By failing to support the children in our educational care are we showing “Resilience, Enterprise, Equality and Fairness”? will we fulfil the leaves on the tree for “Thriving Communities, Caring Communities, Quality of Life and a Vibrant Community”?

“This is a decision which will have a long lasting and highly detrimental effect on those affected immediately by unemployment, those whose education will suffer by excluding them from the help they need and deserve as well as to the wider community.”

The Total ‘savings’ for OIC  : £1.75million

‘In house’: £1.04million

Services: £503,000

  • Christmas Grant –  £64,500
  • Waste collections – £65,000
  • Roads maintenance – £100,000
  • Burial grounds –  £5,000
  • Economic development grants –  £20,000
  • Dial a Bus funding – £11,000
  • Mull Head interpretation centre and Happy Valley –  £300
  • Support for learning –  £65,000
  • Support for learning transport – £6,000
  • Educational psychology – £10,000
  • Modern language assistants – £30,000
  • Community learning and development –£45,000
  • Museums service – £30,000
  • Grounds maintenance – £25,000
  • Summer play scheme –  £15,000
  • Lunch clubs and third sector organisations – £11,400
  • Reduction in homelessness strategy grants –  £6,000

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

family-1663236_960_720Related stories:

£96,000 Cuts To Services for Children with Additional Needs

Getting It Right For All Our children: Stop the Cuts


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