The following has been produced by a parent from the Highlands and posted on Facebook; it is thus the personal view of the author, but one that will be of interest to any parent concerned by what is happening to Additional Support Needs provision and delivery in all Highland schools. It is I think true to say that ASN provision affects every child in a school, not just those who have identified ASN.
Please also read the documents on this issue below – the first two are Highland Council documents, the third from Enquire – the charity Children in Scotland – which sets out the legal rights children and parents have regarding education delivered by local authorities:
If you are concerned about what is happening, then one immediate option is to call an emergency meeting of your Parent Council or entire Parent Forum, and demand that your ward Councillors attend so that those elected members can hear your views. The budget was set by the elected members; they have a legal duty to set a balanced budget but ultimately their choices were guided by what officials told them. You can watch the webcast of the Budget Meeting of the Highland Council of 14 February here and see the minutes etc here.
The document here, pages 75 and 76, and 90, 91 and 99, cover the ASN savings as presented on 14 Feb 19.
The HPCP understands that the majority of Highland Headteachers are not in fact in favour of the changes being implemented. This differs from the information apparently given to elected members by HC.
What the parent posted on facebook:
If you have children in Highland Region – whether they have additional needs or not – they will be affected by the cuts which began last week. Please write to your councillors. Read my rant below for details… my email had the catchy title of “Legal Class Action against Highland Council because of ASN cuts”…
Dear Ms Manson, John Swinney and Highland Councillors,
Ms Manson, thank you very much for your reply to my email in February regarding the cuts to the ASN budget for Highland Region. I was initially reassured by your reply that there would be no reduction in the quality of support provided for my younger autistic son (level 3 needs) or my older son (level 1 whose needs are currently met by classroom teachers). However it has become clear to me that your reply was cleverly worded and that my reassurance was misplaced.
The true extent of the cuts is now emerging via social media from PSAs who have been briefed by Highland Council:
“The current allocation system is being changed so that only level 3 and 4 with intimate care and moving and handling needs will be entitled to PSA support in mainstream classes and/or to receive differentiated teaching in a dedicated support setting. All other pupils (including stage 3 and 4 kids without intimate care or moving and handling needs) will be educated in mainstream classrooms by an ‘upskilled’ teacher – these pupils will no longer be eligible for PSA support so teachers will deal with ‘able-kids’, stage 1 and 2 pupils, a behavioural element and complex needs pupils – ie 3 and 4s with no intimate or moving and handling needs – together in the same mainstream classroom without PSA support for any of those pupils.”
A different account by a different PSA stated that 40% of the support for stage 3 and 4 children would be cut completely. Fear and rumour are rife among staff and parents alike and no-one can believe that what they are hearing is the truth.
Wherever the truth lies, if any such plan goes into action the Highland Council risk being faced with the biggest legal bill any council has ever faced. The cost would far outweigh any saving you hope to make in wages.
As I described in my previous two emails, the Highland Council has a legal obligation to provide an “adequate” education for every child. In going ahead with the plan described, the education of every child will be disrupted by those autistic children with level 3 and 4 needs who are not being supported. When an autistic child’s needs are not met, the whole class knows about it. When their needs are not met, learning is disrupted for every child in the room, while the children whose needs are not being met wander the classroom causing trouble because they have no understanding of what is required of them or what they are supposed to be doing. At best they may lie on the floor or cower under a table. At worst they may start throwing furniture and the teacher needs to clear the room. Every day. This gets worse and worse as the child becomes more and more stressed, simply because their needs are not being met. This means that you will not only be failing the children with additional needs, but you will also get into the credible realm where parents of neurotypical (“normal”) children will also have grounds for legal action against Highland Council because their education will be so disrupted that they will not be able to achieve their potential, may be physically hurt or may fail to achieve their predicted grades because of disruption.
What I am describing is the biggest class action against a council that has ever existed. Potentially every child in Highland Region – whether neurotypical or with additional needs – will have grounds for complaint in the eyes of the law. (See Standards in Scotland’s Schools (Scotland) Act 2000 section 2(1) which relates to all children, whether or not they have additional needs)
Parents of autistic children are already starting to diary their child’s mental, physical and emotional health in anticipation of the inevitable deterioration when this plan is rolled out. This is so that they will have written evidence which will describe exactly how, day by day, the collapse of the school system has failed their child.
The idea of “upskilling” teachers is admirable and laudable. My son moved from the situation described above where he was disrupting the learning of his whole class every day, to a situation where he was fully integrated in a classroom with just one teacher and no support at all. How was this possible? That successful teacher was an extremely unique person – she was the mother of an autistic child herself and she had a postgraduate diploma in additional needs and autism. That is what it takes to do the job unsupported. And this is what you are expecting of these “upskilled” teachers. How much training are you planning to give them? Because what it takes is not only one whole year’s full-time training in additional needs, but also about 20 years life experience of living with autism 24 hours a day. The idea that you can “upskill” teachers to cope with a class full of additional needs is utter fantasy. The teachers know that, the parents know that, the PSAs know that. I urge you to ask them and listen to their response. I challenge you to find one single teacher that believes your plan can work.
You will lose older teachers who have truly had enough of this nonsense and will take early retirement to step away from the chaos.
You will lose probationer teachers and teachers in their first year who signed up to teach, and find themselves failing every child in the room. There is no joy in teaching a class where disruptive unsupported children are exasperating you every minute of every day.
In going forward with this plan you will lose teachers and face an unprecedented legal bill which will far outweigh the cost savings you hope to make. You will break the education system for years to come. You will lower the outcomes of whole swathes of children trying to succeed in exams. Highland children will be disadvantaged in comparison to their counterparts across other Scottish regions.
Please understand that this is not empty rhetoric. Every class teacher and PSA knows it will be the certain outcome. I understand the Highland Council finds itself between a rock and a hard place financially. But that does not mean you should choose to throw yourselves into a lava pit.
Please re-consider this ill thought out plan before it is too late.
Many thanks for your attention. I sincerely hope you are in the process of gaining a better understanding of the damage you are planning for our children and teaching profession. And possibly most importantly to yourselves, understanding the financial cost of that damage.
[a Highland Parent]