Edinburgh parents accuse officials of arrogance over cuts to school language support

PARENTS have accused education officials of being “arrogant and dismissive” in response to their concerns about a cut in support for children who do not have English as their first language.

By Ian Swanson
Monday, 21st October 2019, 6:00 am
Parent council chair Jamila Moore says the council's position is disingenuous
Parent council chair Jamila Moore says the council's position is disingenuous

The Evening News reported last month how more than 200 out of 298 pupils at Dalry Primary School have English as an additional language (EAL) but the school was told at short notice that its allocation of support staff was being cut from three days a week to one.

The council insists its new model of EAL support - equipping class teachers with “the right skills” - has been proven to work, but parents say they have not been shown any evidence.

Parent council reps met education convener Ian Perry and deputy Alison Dickie last month and are now awaiting a follow-up meeting.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

However, Sighthill/Gorgie independent councillor Ashley Graczyk has sent them replies she received from officials on the concerns they raised.

In response to parents asking whether Dalry’s “unique situation” had been considered, the officials said: “All schools have unique situations and challenges” and added Dalry was no longer alone in having a very high number of EAL pupils.

And in answer to a series of questions about a pilot of the new model at St David’s RC Primary, the parents were told they should make a Freedom of Information request.

Parent council member Arun Gopinath said: “The responses are lacking in substance and at times arrogant and dismissive of the issues raised by us.”

In their comments, officials acknowledge the head teacher at Dalry had raised concerns about the reduction in support.

The officials repeatedly insist the new model is not a cut and would involve an initial increase in support to help class teachers acquire the necessary skills. But they also say: “It is now clear that the head teacher at Dalry did not appreciate that the change in model would see the current support systems reduce until she received the letter in August.”

The council says it has now delayed the introduction of the new model to Dalry until next August. But Mr Gopinath said that just postponed the problem for a year.

Parent council chair Jamila Moore said: “To cut the school’s EAL provision from 3.1 days to one day and then offer short-term mitigating factors that then places additional burden on existing teachers of the school to deliver classroom activities that were being done by the EAL provision and calling them as no cut is disingenuous.”

A council spokesman said: “We have discussed the level of EAL provision with the school and agreed to put in place support for the rest of the year with the new model now planned for August 2020.”