Claims that contracted additional needs assistants (ANAs) and classroom assistants in primary schools across the Borders are about to lose their jobs have been denied by Scottish Borders Council.
One ANA working in a Galashiels school, who has asked not to be named, informed us that they were expecting their hours to be cut, as has recently been the case on a yearly basis.
She said: “Every year, the ANA hours always get cut, and we were prepared for this to happen again, then all those with temporary contracts went in Easter this year.
“But even people like me, who have had contracts for 10 years plus, have all been told that basically all ANA hours are going and we would lose our jobs.
“It was just a complete and utter devastation.”
Our source also claimed that they were told that extra-curricular activities such as breakfast clubs were to be stopped.
She said: “I would like the parents to know.
“The breakfast clubs are so important, as are after-school clubs, to pupils who maybe need a little help with their maths or literacy.
“Unless they are privately run, they are no longer going to be subsidised by the council.
“We keep being told how important they are. It gives the poorer kids a breakfast and extra help and allows parents to go to work.”
Our source was not alone in her fears, as a packed meeting at Gala Fairydean Rovers clubrooms on Friday evening, organised by the Unison trade union, heard many similar stories from such employees in schools across the Borders.
However, a council spokesperson told the Southern yesterday: “There are no planned redundancies for staff on permanent contracts.
“Any reductions in permanent staffing are currently being managed through a voluntary early retirement severance programme.
“We had, however, anticipated that there would be some reduction in staffing required at some schools and increases in others. To minimise the impact of this on the service, there have been some staff employed on temporary contracts which have now come to an end.
“The council’s overall aim and commitment is to provide a flexible and responsive additional needs support service, designed to fully meet the needs of the children and young people across the Borders who required support.
“In line with national guidance, we believe the most effective way to do this is by utilising a cluster model which enables us to place staff in the settings which best meet the needs of the child or young person.”
The council spokesperson also dismissed the claim that breakfast clubs were to stop, saying: “There continues to be funding and staffing available for activities such as breakfast clubs and after-school clubs, with additional funds provided for children in areas of deprivation.”
The situation is strangely similar to our stories last month on the the special needs nursery unit at Langlee, when school staff were being told it was being closed and the official council line insisted the opposite.
What is clear is that the ANAs have no idea what card they will be dealt, as our source claims that their headteachers have now been stopped from telling them anything and that they themselves have been gagged.
She said: “It’s a mess. The headteachers had originally been told to speak to all their staff by last Friday, which would give them a month’s notice of a change of contract, but when the union found out what was going on, they said the council was acting illegally, breaking contract laws, no redundancy, the lot.
“The headteachers were then told not to talk to us about it.”
“Until this is sorted out, we don’t know what we are doing next year.
“We have been told to keep quiet, that we are not allowed to say anything.”