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Education Cuts & Protecting the Vulnerable – Budget 2011/2012 – Aberdeen


10th November was the day that the council in Aberdeen voted once again on the budget  cuts.

The statement is here for anyone local to Aberdeen

As with the other statements which will be being released up and down the country, they make for quite light reading, touching on issues, and promising to deliver on what looks like good practice.

Some of the main priorities in Aberdeen are :

  • providing services for the most vulnerable people;
  • ensuring all schoolchildren reach their potential;

Initially, the council were planning to remove 50% of the PSA (Personal Support Assistants)  in classrooms across the city, in both primary and secondary provision, and that is in an area where inclusion has been heavily carried out with PSA support.  This was after already losing 300 at the last round of cuts.

There are children being excluded for not being able to cope now.   How much is that going to increase when more support is taken away, is anybody’s guess.  Excluding is easy where the staff cannot, and will not take responsibility for the issues that arise from placing children inappropriately.

Our children in mainstream schools now share classes with the ASN children who would, probably in our generation have attended the stand alone special schools, or childrens institutes in the area.  We have a high PSA ratio in our schools, as they are now there supporting the children who need help.  I have heard many excuses surrounding why they should be cut, from people outraged that they are pinning up things to make classes look pretty, to sitting “babysitting” children with bad behaviour.

Both of these arguments are irrational.  Yes, teachers could pin up the sticker charts, the projects, the work that the children are doing, but then we are eating into teaching time.  What do you really want??    And as for the “babysitting……..    From my perspective, in a school where there are children not coping, there will be bad behaviour.

The other options for those children struggling without support are limited to quietly not receiving much of an education, and exclusion.  With the right support, they are living a full life, and integrating with the school.  I thought that was the whole point!!!!!!!   Maybe I misunderstood the point of integration / exclusion all these years.   Any arguments, or issues people have with PSA’s should be taken up with the individual headteachers who allocated them, and they should not be not used to denigrate PSA’s overall.

One of the options tabled was to cut music in schools and another was to amalgamate two secondary schools, which was sensible in terms of the school roll.   Both of these options raised high profile campaigns, that parents AND the children themselves fought.   The councillors very quickly decided that these options were going to cause them some problems, and might likely affect their future election prospects.  Both issues were taken off the table.

Taking those issues off the table, meant that for education, there needed to be cuts from somewhere.   The other potential eduction cuts that run deep in Aberdeen included

  • Increasing special school class size from 1:7 to 1:10  (this means losing approx 27 ASN specialist teachers)
  • Cutting PSA’s between 50 – 100%  in mainstream  (we are talking possibly 300 more support staff)
  • Not fulling educational psychologist positions (so reduced access to support for additional support needs)

Now, I am not being unreasonable to say, that doing all of this up front, without the training of the staff who are left to cope, is madness.  All I can see are the unsupported children struggling, and with no prospect of assistance.  These children then add to the social care system, but sorry, that is being cut as well.

And in the process, hundreds of thousands of people up and down the country are being made redundant in the name of paying back the debt our banks got us into).

Now who, in the cutting process, is going to be left to pay the debs off?

The demand on benefits is increasing with the redundancies.  With less money to spend, more people are having to give up their small businesses – oh wait, that means yet more on benefits again.

Now forgive me for being pessimistic, but the people making these decisions don’t live in the real world.  They live in their comfortable, well paid little bubbles, with their comfortable and well paid little friends, living their perfect little lives, with nannies, cooks, cleaners and bottle washers on tap.

Those of us in the general public can’t fight the upper classes, but we have  to live with their bad choices.  I have nothing but respect for the parents in the constituencies who decided to boycott school for a day in protest at the education cuts.    All power to them.

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