TEMPLATE LETTER TO COUNCILLORS ASKING THEM TO STOP THE ASN CUTS

We offer all parents and Parent Councils the template at the link below for writing or emailing to your elected Councillors, asking them for specific and urgent actions to stop the ASN cuts and think again before thousands of pupils suffer the consequences.  Please feel free to amend it however you wish to emphasise local issues, but it is intended to be usable “as is”.

http://www.highlandpcp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Template-for-letter-to-Councillors-on-ASN-cuts-28-March-2019.docx

Please do not unreasonably criticise or abuse your elected members – they face genuinely difficult decisions and it is not always easy to get it right.
When they do get it wrong, it is not always easy to admit that and go back to reconsider the decision – there will be many reasons why that can be a hard path to take.

More information is at the links below:

Minutes of the Budget meeting 14 Feb 19: https://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/4084/highland_council/attachment/74975

Briefing paper for Councillors: https://www.highland.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/74855/item_3_revenue_budget_201920_to_202122

Details of the proposed cuts – see pages 75, 90, 95 and 99 in particular: https://www.highland.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/74856/item_3_detailed_sheets_-_all_themes

The “Sustainable Highland” change strategy: https://www.highland.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/74857/item_3_a_sustainable_highland

Information given to PSAs facing moves out of ASN: http://www.highlandpcp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/7293-190321-JG-PSA-Cuts-Q-and-A.pdf and

http://www.highlandpcp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/7293-190321-JG-PSA-Cuts-Briefing.pdf

 

The template text is also reproduced below so you can read it and also cut and paste into emails, facebook groups etc if you wish.

Dear Councillor,

You will be well aware of the huge and entirely negative public and parental reaction to the Highland Council’s plans to drastically cut Additional Support Needs in our schools.  As parents, whether of children with ASN or not, we completely reject the premise that you can take over £9 million away from ASN and associated support funding over three years without having catastrophic effects on the lives of thousands of children.

We are calling on you to take action now to stop these cuts and to press for a proper analysis of the impacts before any changes in staffing or support allocations take place. 

We ask you to demand that the Revenue Budget is reopened, reviewed, and these cuts stopped for this year until a properly informed decision can be made.

We ask you to have the courage to recognise that the Highland Council has made a mistake, and must therefore halt changes that would otherwise lead to a catastrophe for thousands of Highland people, children and parents, your constituents.

Many parents are concerned that the ongoing 2019 pupil needs assessment, and particularly the moderation process, is already being used to downgrade assigned ASN levels with the express intent of reducing the total ASN numbers down towards the “national average” quoted in the Council Budget meeting of 14 February.

We thus ask you to convene a special committee including co-opted independent experts to oversee the moderation process and ensure that all ASN assessment and moderation for 2019 is done on objective measures alone and not subjected to budgetary-driven downgrading pressures.

If these ASN cuts go ahead as planned then it is probable, if not a certainty, that the wellbeing of thousands of Highland children, many amongst our most vulnerable, will be irreparably damaged.

Their life-chances could be destroyed, perhaps permanently depriving them of the possibility that they could ultimately become valuable and valued, contributing citizens achieving their full potential whatever that might be.

Their parents will be driven to despair, seeing their children deprived of the kind of support that transforms lives.

Their classmates risk seeing their education being disrupted by pupils with unsupported ASN becoming unable to cope with mainstream pressures and reacting accordingly.

It is a certainty that such outcomes will result in many legal actions against the Council, which will incur huge costs to defend, and perhaps even greater costs arising from compensation settlements.  We would all rather see the money – our money – spent on ASN than going into the pockets of lawyers.

Ask yourself some questions:

When you voted on 14 February did you understand the real impact of the proposed cuts to ASN and the associated services?

How well do you really understand ASN provision and the beneficial impact it has?  It is a complex matter, and unless you have been directly involved in some detail with ASN delivery you are very unlikely to appreciate the day-to-day impact of meeting, and failing to meet, ASN.

Had you researched the details yourself or did you rely upon what Officials were telling you?

Was the information given to you factual, evidenced-based and fully-documented, or summary, subjective and only verbal?

Did you ask any questions? Did you ask the right questions?

Were you making a truly informed choice, one you could defend as a legally competent decision?

Are you now better informed about the real consequences of your choice?

Knowing what you know today, would you now reject these cuts and demand a detailed and fully evidential base for the restructuring that Officials have proposed?  If not, why not?

We do understand that Highland has a revenue and capital budget problem and that there were no easy answers, but you had other choices available.  You could have asked the people of Highland to pay more, through raising Council Tax by the maximum available to you, another £2 million in 2019-2020, to support ASN at current levels at least until a proper needs assessment had been completed.

We are a compassionate and generous people: have the courage to make the case for us to contribute more to support vulnerable children for at least this year while a proper and independent study is done to determine the right long-term solution.

In the February detailed savings sheets, you were given the following information on proposed savings:

Service Reference and Savings Title Job cuts in current roles? Year 1 (£M) Year 2 (£M) Year 3 (£M) Total Cuts (£M)
3.8 – Specialist Teachers Yes 2.788 1.575 1.575 5.938
4.1 – Benchmarking of support in schools Yes 0.7 1.05 1.05 2.8
4.4 – Children’s Services redesign Yes 0 0.31 0.25 0.56
4.7 – Care and Learning specialist support services budget efficiencies Probable 0.25 0 0 0.25
Yearly Total Cuts (£M) 3.738 2.935 2.875 9.548

Were you also told that these savings would result in well over 100 specialist staff being moved out of ASN work, including qualified teachers and the PSAs that do so much to support children in class?

Did you understand what impact a near 10% reduction in ASN staffing would have upon those 13,000 or so pupils who depend upon such support, and to the other nearly 20,000 pupils who would face dealing with the consequences of the needs of their classmates no longer being met properly?

Did Officials explain to you in any detail – or even at all – how it was possible to determine that you could safely reduce ASN spending by 10% in the coming year before having completed the needs assessment and additional training for teachers?

Did Officials explain to you what the impact would be for a child assessed at level 3 or 4 but “without complex needs” facing the complete loss of PSA support?

Did Officials explain to you or even mention any assessment of how non-ASN pupils would be affected by these cuts, for example by increased disruption in class?

Officials set great store on the comparable figures on pupils with ASN and the associated spend in Highland versus other Local Authorities, but did they prove unequivocally to you that there was a systematic fault in the way Highland had been assessing ASN?

We all know that Highland has many unique features and unique challenges: maybe we are the only people in Scotland actually getting this right?

Officials suggested that other Local Authorities achieve “better outcomes” for children with ASN than Highland does – but even if this is true, how does reducing funding for ASN improve outcomes?

We would all welcome better training for classroom teachers – but you have to deliver the training and validate the actual increase in relevant skills and capacity to cope with ASN before you cut the specialist support.

It takes courage, wisdom, leadership and vision to admit to making a mistake and then looking for a practical way to overcome the problems.  We ask you to do that.

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