Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Scrutiny and Audit Committee met with officials from Education, Learning and Leisure to discuss concerns about the new Pupil Support Assistant posts.
In particular the Scrutiny and Audit Committee questioned officers about the issues raised in the development of the post and the deployment and training of staff.
The role of Pupil Support Assistant is a new post within Aberdeenshire Council and has been created to ensure young people receive the best support based on their needs while at school.
Maria Walker, Director of Education, Learning and Leisure told the committee that moving from several posts to a single post has allowed the head teachers of individual schools, and the Local Management Groups of the Local Schools Networks, greater flexibility to respond to both short term, and long term, support needs of pupils.
The Committee were also told that the implementation of this move, agreed after due consultation and with trade union support, had only taken effect in the most recent school term and that there were, as with any new policy, teething issues.
They were further told that these were being monitored and that adequate resources were available, and support in terms of training for staff in their new role was being progressed as quickly as possible.
The Committee sought assurances from officers of the Education, Learning and Leisure Service that the training of the staff and monitoring of the budget would be a priority for the service.
Chair of the Scrutiny and Audit Committee, Councillor Gillian Owen, said:
“Concerns have been raised about the new support role and the Scrutiny and Audit Committee were given the task to consider the matter in a cross party manner.
“Whilst it is early days for the implementation of the revised staffing support it was important to get assurances from the service that concerns were being addressed. The plan we have agreed with the service today will be communicated to all other members of Aberdeenshire Council to give them the same assurance.”
The Committee requested additional information in terms of the equivalent numbers of posts, before and after the creation of the new, flexible resource post; and consideration of whether there were any stress implications for staff absence rates of the change of staffing arrangements.
Assurances were further given that the implementation would be reviewed by the Education, Learning and Leisure Committee, but allowing enough time for the policy to bed in.
Officers agreed that in any review to be undertaken, the comments of the Scrutiny and Audit Committee would be taken into consideration. It was agreed that the outline scope for the review be shared in draft with the Scrutiny and Audit Committee for their input, and this would happen in Spring 2013.
The review would include speaking with service users and parent bodies as well as education staff.