Fears of more violence in Edinburgh schools as cash runs out for additional support
A TEACHERS’ union has warned of “devastating” consequences and a possible increase in violence after primary schools in Edinburgh were told there is no more money to provide special needs support because last year’s budget was overspent.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) warned the instruction to headteachers to make do with the funding they had would result in higher stress levels for staff and pupils and lead to more children under-achieving.
All primary heads in the city were sent a letter from a senior education official at the city council saying 250 new applications for additional support for “low incidence” - or highly complex - cases had recently been received.
It said: “If each of these children was to be allocated a full-time PSA (pupil support assistant) we would require an additional sum of £5 million. This is not possible.”
The letter went on to say it had “become apparent” that during the 2018/19 financial year, additional support allocations made under “low incidence” had exceeded the budget. “To bring the expenditure back into line with the budget we are unable to allocate any further Low Incidence allocations for the new school session. Schools will have to work to support children with additional support needs utilising this funding and existing school budgets.”
EIS Edinburgh secretary Alison Murphy said: “This is going to have a devastating impact on schools.”
She said the term “low incidence” was misleading because now that more and more children who in the past would have gone to a special school are in mainstream primaries, there were pupils with highly complex needs in every school.
She said: “If everyone is saying we need to empower schools and headteachers are saying this is what we need, how can it not be happening?
“Just thinking we can rejig other support isn’t going to cut it. We cannot meet these children’s needs within that envelope.”
“If these are children who need high-level support and aren’t getting it, it’s not just those kids who are going to be devastated, it’s also going to be all the other kids in their class.
“One of the major reasons behind the rise in violence is because kids do not have enough support. So the knock-on effect is going to be across the board in virtually every school in Edinburgh. “You’re going to have staff who are stressed, children who stressed, it’s going to be a disaster.
“It could mean more violence, it could also mean children under-achieving, not reaching their potential.”
Education convener Ian Perry said the council was committed to giving pupils with additional support needs the high quality support they required. “There has been an increased number of children and young people requiring support and I have discussed this with officials with a view to identifying how these needs can be met. We increased the budget for additional support hours this year. However there is an ever-increasing demand and we must find ways to continue supporting our most vulnerable children.”