Concerns over changes to Primary School support staff

CONCERNS have been raised over Aberdeenshire Councils plans to implement changes to pupil support within Primary Schools.

The Leader was contacted last week by a concerned local, who wished not to be named, who was worried that the local authority has mislead parents over the creation of a new pupil support role.

It was claimed that the playground assistants, whose role it is to supervise playtime in Schools, are not to be replaced under Aberdeenshire Councils new plans and many of the playground assistants who work in the area have received letters telling them they will be made redundant. This has caused concern as it is claimed that the new Pupil support assistant will not then take over this role. They wanted the Leader to investigate this so that parents and children are aware of what is going on and they can, if they wish, fight to save their playground supervisors.

When asked if all of the playground assistants were losing their jobs, and if they were being replaced, a spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “Employees have been consulted throughout the review of pupil support and the creation of the Pupil Support Assistant post.

“All affected employees were recently sent a letter advising them of the outcome of the process matching jobs to the new post and whether they are currently at risk of redundancy. However, all those included in the review are guaranteed employment until June 2012 and the council will work to mitigate the need for compulsory redundancies through voluntary severance, redeployment, training and changes to working arrangements. A consultation with employees is ongoing until February 2012.

“This review recognises the need to support children with complex needs in mainstream schools, the are changing demands on schools following the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence and ensuring that resources are directed towards areas of greatest need. Now is the right time to assess how support is provided and make this support more flexible, more efficient and more targeted.”

The changes follow a consultation by Aberdeenshire council which saw over 1400 staff being consulted about the proposed changes which will see the creation of a single Pupil Support Assistant. The Pupil Support Assistant will replace four existing posts of classroom assistant, children’s supervisor, lunchtime auxiliary and support for learning auxiliary. The posts were reviewed in response to the changing demands on schools following the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence and the need to support more children with complex needs. Significant budget overspends on school support have also been identified.

The local authority claims the new Pupil Support Assistant will provide a more flexible approach to learning to meet the needs of pupils; lead to a clear understanding by employees, pupils and parents about the roles and responsibilities of support staff; ensure equity and fairness; and enable more focused and consistent training.