While angry classroom assistants gathered outside the Motherwell Civic Centre on Thursday and sat in the public gallery,the North Lanarkshire Council SNP Group made two moves to try to maintain and safeguard Classroom Assistant and Additional Support Needs Assistant posts at North Lanarkshire Council’s meeting in Motherwell on 22nd June. SNP councillors later met the protesters outside the Civic Centre.
First,SNP Group Education Spokesman and former teacher,Councillor Tom Johnston,moved suspension of Standing Orders to allow the Council to consider re-instating 198 Classroom Assistants posts which had been cut in February’s Council Budget for 2017-18 .
Explained Councillor Johnston: “ Council decisions can’t be changed until after six months have elapsed. You have to suspend Council Standing Orders if you wish to reconsider a decision within the 6-month period.month period. The SNP group wants to reverse the February budget move to get rid of 198 Classroom Assistant posts. We are disappointed that our move to suspend standing orders was blocked 41-32, with the Tory councillors backing Labour.”
In a second move,a tabled SNP motion to safeguard Additional Support Needs Assistants (ASNA) posts in North Lanarkshire schools was defeated 42-29.
The motion read: “North Lanarkshire Council agrees to maintain provision of Additional Support Needs Assistants (ASNA) employed personnel at current levels and ensure that no current personnel – whether on permanent or temporary contracts – have their services terminated in order to accommodate Classroom Assistants who,following Council Budget decision,move into ASNA employment.”
Moving the motion,SNP Education Spokesperson,Councillor Tom Johnston said: “The SNP Group’s first aim is to reinstate the 198 classroom assistant posts. Our second aim is to ensure that no Additional Special Needs Assistants on temporary posts are not put out of their posts to make way for in-coming former Classroom Assistants. Redeployment of classroom assistants should be additional to current ASNA numbers. There can be no ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’.”
“It is simply wrong to cut classroom assistant and ASNA posts. Modern schooling is hugely demanding. There has been a big rise in the number of Additional Special Needs diagnoses in recent years and a legal ‘presumption of mainstream’ right for all pupils. Policies for children are highly individualised,under ‘GIRFEC’ – ‘Getting it Right for Every Child,. Many vulnerable children rely on individual relationships with auxiliaries. Safety during intervals is important.”
SNP Councillor Agnes Magowan, a former secondary Depute Head, seconded the motion.