Edinburgh council U-turn on cash for additional support needs in schools

CITY education chiefs have done a U-turn on their refusal to spend any more money on support for pupils with additional needs.

Thursday, 6th June 2019, 4:54 pm
Teachers' leader Alison Murphy wants more details

Just days after a letter was sent to all primary schools telling them no more funding would be available, education convener Ian Perry and vice-convener Alison Dickie issued a statement saying they had agreed not to reduce the money given to schools for additional support.

The original letter said the council had received 250 new applications for additional support and it could not meet the cost of that many extra Pupil Support Assistants (PSAs). It also said it had “become apparent” that during the 2018/19 financial year, additional support allocations had exceeded the budget and schools would have to work within existing funds.

The EIS teachers’ union had warned that expecting schools to make do with what they had risked more violence and pupils under-achieving

The councillors’ statement - issued on Wednesday - said: “These are challenging times financially for councils but we must maintain and increase if possible the money to properly support these young people.

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“Following discussions with education officials, we have agreed not to reduce the money we give to schools to support children with additional support needs.”

EIS Edinburgh secretary Alison Murphy welcomed the change of heart as recognition that inclusion required “proper resourcing”.

But she said: “We need more detail about whether this is new money, or is cash that’s been taken away from other essential educational areas. It is also the case that, whilst it is good news that there will be no reduction in budgets, headteacher requests for more PSAs to support our most vulnerable pupils make it clear that what is needed is a significant injection of extra cash.

“This is more money than Edinburgh can provide on its own. We need Scottish Government to work with Edinburgh to ensure schools have the money they need to do all the work they are being asked to do.”

Tory councillor Jason Rust noted Labour’s manifesto at the 2017 council elections had promised an increase in classroom assistants and support staff for children with additional needs.

He said: “The U-turn within 48 hours by the council administration will be most welcome by parents. However, it is both disappointing and concerning that this cut was communicated to schools and parents in the first place and it seemed to be in direct contradiction of the Labour stance prior to the local elections.

“There would have been significant detrimental implications for both staff and pupils if this cut had gone ahead.”