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Lack of learning assistants sparks complaints

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Lack of learning assistants sparks complaints

A RECORD number of schools in Dumfries and Galloway have complained that they are not receiving the right quota of learning assistants to cope with demand.

With one in three youngsters now identified as having additional support needs in class – compared to below one in ten a decade ago – teachers have been pleading for additional resources.

Education chiefs at Dumfries and Galloway Council recently completed an exercise alongside headteachers to try and allocate the right number of learning assistant for the year ahead.

However, the initial proposed quota has sparked a stream of complaints from schools and nurseries.

In a report for councillors, Jim Brown, head of education, wrote: “This year the staffing exercise has included more involvement of headteachers, with greater transparency than ever before.

“However, more schools than ever before have raised concerns about their allocation.

“It is important to highlight that there has not been any reduction in spending on learning assistants for the last five years.”

This year there were 60 requests for additional learning support hours: 26 from primary schools, 14 from secondary schools, and four submitted by nurseries. The others were a mix of requests from primary school partnerships and education cases dealing with moderate and severe and complex needs.

Commenting, Andrew O’Halloran, secretary of Dumfries and Galloway branch of teachers’ union EIS, said: “Regrettably, there are simply not enough learning assistants in schools in Dumfries and Galloway, and this comes at a time of the greatest need.

“Following the pandemic all the underlying issues in education have been magnified by the lack of social interaction during lockdown.

“There has been a chronic lack of funding for additional support needs for many years.

“The figures showing that 43 percent of educational settings have requested a review of their allocations speak volumes.”