Plans to make changes to the provision of support for children in Aberdeenshire schools have moved a step forward with 183 jobs being earmarked for being removed.
Over 1400 staff have been consulted since June about the proposed changes which will see the creation of a single Pupil Support Assistant, replacing four existing posts of classroom assistant, children’s supervisor, lunchtime auxiliary and support for learning auxiliary.
A review of these posts was required to respond 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 and this needs to be addressed in light of the severe financial constraints being placed on the public sector.
The new Pupil Support Assistant (PSA) 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 focussed and consistent training for support staff.
The consultation, included a series of presentations and question and answer sessions to ensure that staff were fully informed about the proposals. 156 responses to the proposals were received, representing the views of 197 individuals, as well as responses from trade unions which reflected a number of individuals and groups of staff.
A job matching process has now been completed in line with council policy and in agreement with trade union representatives, and letters have been sent to all employees affected.
All existing employees, totalling 833 full time equivalent (FTE) posts (in this case FTE is 27.5 hours per week), are guaranteed employment until June 2012. After this time 650 FTEs will continue for the new school year and approximately 183 FTEs (including 66 FTE posts for those on temporary contracts) will no longer be available.
A range of options will be accessible to those staff who have not been matched to a new post but are keen to remain with the council, including training to develop their skills to help them apply for vacant Pupil Support Assistant posts and further support for those wishing to pursue career opportunities elsewhere.
Aberdeenshire Council remains committed to taking all possible steps to avoid compulsory redundancy and all staff included in the review who have permanent contracts are being given the opportunity to apply for voluntary severance as part of the redundancy consultation process
Maria Walker, Director of Education, Learning & Leisure explained
This is a very large and complex review which affects hundreds of staff. Our focus is on giving our children the very best start in life.
We have worked with headteachers across Aberdeenshire to develop individual learning plans for pupils. Their involvement has also helped us to evidence the need within schools, ensuring that we are in a good position to provide support where it is needed most.
Having a single post means that we can deliver training and support in a co-ordinated way, and provide clarity to parents and teachers about the roles and responsibilities of pupil support staff. We will also be able to focus resources where the need is greatest and work with schools to ensure their needs are met.
We are aware of the impact this will have on our workforce and are committed to putting in place training and development. I want to give those people that have not been matched to a job, the best opportunity to secure one of the new posts.