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Children's tsar wades into learning support row

The letter asks the council to delay its decision on the proposals. Credit: Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People

Scotland's Children's Commissioner has entered the row over proposed learning support cuts in Dumfries and Galloway.

At Dumfries and Galloway Council's budget meeting tomorrow, February 5, the decision on whether to axe 52 learning support jobs in the county will be taken.

But Tam Baillie is concerned by the proposals:

"I am writing to express my concern at proposals currently being considered by Dumfries & Galloway Council. These proposals would, I understand, reduce the number Learning Support Staff employed by the Council by a minimum of 52.8 FTE over the next 3 years.

"Whilst I appreciate that Dumfries & Galloway Council, in common with all Local Authorities, is operating under increasing financial pressures, I am concerned that these current proposals will impact upon the most vulnerable children and young people in Dumfries and Galloway. This includes disabled children and young people, those with caring responsibilities and those requiring more short-term targeted support (e.g. after a bereavement).

"The proposals appear to suggest that ASL provision will be greatly reduced, focused mainly on areas of Multiple Deprivation, and that children and young people will find it much more difficult to access the support they need. For some children these changes may remove their right to participate fully in school life."

– Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People

He's calling for the decision to be delayed:

"I am aware that the Council is due to make a decision on this proposal on Thursday, 5th February, 2015. I believe, however, that the Council should pause and take stock.

"I would suggest that the Council carry out a Children’s Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) before any substantive decisions are taken, in order to fully assess the potential impact of these proposals from a children’s rights perspective."

– Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People

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Council hears details about new Scotrail operator

Councillors in Dumfries and Galloway heard details about the new Scotrail franchise operator's plans on Tuesday 14th January.

Abellio Ltd won the contract in October and will run train services in the region from 2015-2025.

The council raised concerns about some of the proposed changes.

"Councillors were happy with increased services to and from Stranraer, but concerned at the removal of direct services to Glasgow and back and people will need to change at Ayr.

"The extra services on the Nith Valley line between Dumfries and Carlisle were also welcomed by councillors , but it is disappointing that most of the changes on this line won't even take place until December 2017 and overall it looks as if very few improvements are being made in our region when compared to other areas"

– Cllr Colin Smyth, Chairman of the Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee said

New system will be "much improved" say D&G Council

Dumfries and Galloway Council says that the new system for learning support across the region will be much improved when compared to the current one.

The council plans on giving additional training to current teachers, who will then be in charge of looking after children with additional needs, as well as the rest of the class.

But the teachers' union is concerned that these proposals will only add to what they say is an already overstretched workload:

"The problem is finding the time when that's not normally done by learning support teachers, it's going to have to be done by classroom teachers who are not going to have the time to do all the other duties, particularly with the new courses.

"So we're going to be advising people to stick to their contractual hours."

– John Dennis. Educational Institute of Scotland, D&G Branch

Supporting Learning Family Information evenings

Dumfries and Galloway Council are planning to cut 52 learning support jobs.

You can find out more by attending one of the following information evenings that will run from 6pm until 7.30pm:

  • Tuesday 13 January: Moffat Academy
  • Thursday 15 January: Castle Douglas High School
  • Tuesday 20 January: Dumfries Academy Hall
  • Thursday 2 January: Douglas Ewart High School
  • Tuesday 27 January: Stranraer Academy Hall
  • Thursday 29 January: Sanquhar Academy Hall
  • Monday 2 February: Annan Academy

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Concerns over council cuts to learning support

Lewis and Ryan both benefit from additional needs services Credit: ITV Border

Parents across Dumfries and Galloway are concerned about the council's proposals to cut 52 learning support jobs.

The cuts are being put forward as part of a review into the Supporting Learners Service across the region. The council has to save £32million by 2018, and says it has tried to protect the education budget as far as possible.

However, some parents of children with a range of disabilities are worried about what the cuts will mean.

Demi Powell is worried about the impact of the cuts on her sons. Credit: ITV Border

Demi Powell is a single mother of two from Dalbeattie. Both of her sons, Ryan and Lewis, have different disabilities and require one-to-one support during school.

She has worked closely with various specialists for around five years to ensure they receive the best support possible, and feels the cuts will undo any progress already made:

"One of the things that's been really difficult is that the impact of it is just not clear at all.

There are cuts right across the service from educational psychologists and the speech therapists who provide the expertise down to the classroom assistants who are there on a day-to-day basis with the children.

I think that's part of the issues- it isn't possible to tell how it's going to impact on your child until it happens."

– Demi Powell

Extra funding for D&G cemeteries

Dumfries and Galloway Council will provide more money to maintain its cemeteries Credit: ITV News Border

Dumfries and Galloway Council says it has set aside extra funding to clear-up cemeteries which need their grass cutting.

It follows a number of complaints since it was revealed that some graveyards would only have their grass cut three times a year in order to save money.

Overgrown areas will be monitored more closely for the rest of the growing season.

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Labour attempt minority administration of D&G Council after coalition collapse

The Labour leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council has told ITV Border his party will attempt to form a minority administration. That's after the SNP group quit the ruling coalition yesterday after just eight months sharing power with Labour. Joe Pike reports from Dumfries:

Cemetery grass keeping cut back is 'unacceptable'

A council has been accused of having a lack of respect for the dead, after bringing in a policy which will see grass cut in some cemeteries just three times a year.

Dumfries and Galloway council has to make almost £30 million pounds of savings in three years. It says cutting back on the upkeep of cemeteries with low usage is one of the ways it can save money.

Local people say the policy is thoughtless.

Fiona McIlwraith reports:

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