Additional needs for schools revised

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A SURGE in the pupil population at Earlston High School means more time from additional needs assistants (ANA) will be dedicated to its catchment area, writes Kenny Paterson.

The losers will be Eildon West – including Galashiels Academy – and Tweeddale, which covers Peebles High, with both communities seeing its ANA time reduced.

Members of Scottish Borders Council’s education committee decided at its Tuesday meeting to back the proposals to revise its £3.24million allocation of core hours for staff who work alongside teachers in mainstream education.

For Eildon East, which includes Earlston and Selkirk High Schools, its allocation from 2014/15 rises from 15.5 per cent to 18.9 per cent, while Tweeddale sees the biggest drop in hours by almost 4.5 per cent.

Berwickshire, Cheviot and Teviot will see slight increases in its ANA provision.

SBC Cheviot locality manager James Marshall said: “We have found that Earlston’s pupil population has seen a massive rise, while in Galashiels it has fallen.

“We have found in some classes of 20 pupils that there was one teacher and three ANAs – that is not a good use of resources.”

Mr Marshall added that the loss of core hours from both Tweeddale and Eildon West will be partly compensated by the allocation of hours due to exceptional needs students, with both areas traditionally having a larger proportion in that category.

The new method of calculating ANA core hours followed a review of the process which discovered it to be time-consuming, inequitable and not transparent.

“This process, which identified annually the individual needs of children, required a cumbersome paper and meeting process to complete,” wrote Mr Marshall in his report.

A review group was set up to revise the method and agreed to reallocate 80 per cent of the hours, with the remaining 20 per cent being left aside to support children with exceptional needs.

The new way of distributing ANA staff time was devised using a school index, produced to work out any shortfalls or not needed cover within SBC’s community learning areas.

It was made up by combining school roll and each community’s ranking in a Scottish index of most and least deprived zones.

Mr Marshall said the new system would provide flexibility, with schools which do not require as much ANA support being able to transfer core hours to a school which does need it.

But Selkirkshire councillor Vicky Davidson said: “The thought that schools are going to give up their allocation for other schools seems a bit optimistic.”

However, Mr Marshall said the new system would streamline the process and ensure it is fair.

In his report, he added: “School session 2013/14 will be a transition period when the existing method of allocation will be used.

“Concurrent with this, the review group will compare the existing allocation against the allocation obtained by using the new method using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation and the moderation of exceptional needs.

“This will allow any revision of the model before full implementation (in 2014/15).”