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Concerns voiced over classroom cuts

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
Concerns voiced over classroom cuts

'SERIOUS concern' has been voiced about cuts to classroom assistants and learning support assistants in the region's schools.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union has slammed a decision by Dumfries and Galloway Council to axe the equivalent of 62 full-time classroom support staff.

They say the cuts mainly affect part-time and female workers and have also had a detrimental impact on the learning and teaching environment in the affected schools.
EIS local association secretary John Dennis said: “These deep cuts to classroom support staff have cost many dedicated workers their jobs and are having a damaging impact in schools throughout Dumfries and Galloway. The loss of these staff has removed a valuable source of support for pupils and increased the workload of teachers.
“Support staff, teachers and parents are united in their anger at these profoundly damaging cuts, and the EIS will continue to work to fight any further proposed reductions.”
And EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan added: “The scale of the support staff cuts in Dumfries and Galloway’s schools is truly shocking.
“There was a lack of consultation with trade unions regarding these cuts, with little or no regard for the impact on staff and pupils in Dumfries and Galloway’s schools.”
Responding, Councillor Jeff Leaver explained a review of the supporting learners service in 2014 led to a more flexible approach in matching resources to the children with the greatest needs.
He further noted that new, better paid, learning assistant and senior learning assistant roles were created as a result.
Mr Leaver said: “There were no redundancies in the transition and all who wished to make the change were automatically matched-in. While the role of classroom assistants was removed, the number of learning assistants was increased and we have 380 FTEs in place delivering specific support to those children most in need of it.
“The number of hours of additional support for learners has increased by almost 1000 hours a week. We also have the second lowest pupil:teacher ratio in mainland Scotland (12.7:1), well below the Scottish Government target and some of best attainment levels in Scotland, so it is disappointing the EIS are talking down education in the area instead of supporting the achievements of pupils and staff.”
He added: “This is all being done in the face of massive Government cuts. Not once has the EIS lifted a finger to lobby the Scottish Government over those cuts. The EIS, and in particular John Dennis, has refused to engage with our council administration in identifying possible savings. He has publicly stated that he doesn’t support austerity budgets. Well, neither do we but, in the real world, that is what we are forced to deal with.
“It’s high time that John Dennis and Larry Flanagan stood up for Dumfries and Galloway and fought alongside the council and local people to get a decent deal for the region.”


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