Skye parents protest at plan for cuts in classroom

PARENTS in part of Skye yesterday kept their children out of school and staged a protest over planned education cuts.

A 100-strong group from the Staffin and Kilmuir schools, which together have 53 pupils, lobbied councillors at a meeting in Portree and also plan to demonstrate at Highland Council on Thursday when budget cuts will be discussed.

The authority proposes to cut classroom assistants from schools in an effort to save money. It would mean the loss of 158 full-time equivalent posts, which are filled by 344 people.

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Some of the money saved would be used to to create up to 70 full-time equivalent learning support auxiliary posts, filled by up to 150 staff, for children with specific needs.

The budget for classroom assistants is 2.45 million and it is proposed to invest 980,000 in employing the new auxiliaries.

Ann Martin, who has a child in Kilmuir Primary, said: "This is not just about one issue but education in general. The council has to think logically before it begins making cuts.

"We felt we needed to show the councillors that there is genuine concern about the cuts and the fact they are not consulting with their communities.

"There are definitely places where money can be saved, but not at the coal face, in the classroom. We are talking peanuts in terms of what classroom assistants get paid, but they put a lot of effort in for that money and it's very worthwhile." She said there had already been cuts in PE, art and music specialists.

Parents and classroom staff from across the region have also raised concerns about the plans.

The parent council of Brora Primary School parent council in Sutherland said classroom assistants were "a relatively cheap resource", adding that the plan was being rushed through.

Education committee chairman Bill Fernie said the proposal would give pupils with additional needs access to a greater level of staff support.

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