Following an intense campaign led by parents, teachers and unions, the Labour council has agreed to put on hold its unpopular proposals to reconfigure the Learning Support Service, which provides support to children with special educational needs.
The proposals, to reduce staff numbers and reclassify specialist teachers to “advisers” expected to work longer hours for the same or less pay, were deeply unpopular, and led to a petition to save the service which secured over 10,000 signatures. According to unions, 40 of the 41 teachers currently working in these services have said they will not be willing to work under the conditions currently being proposed.
In a statement to the committee on Monday, Labour councillor Tom Bewick said that the petition was driven by many “misinformed” accusations which has prevented informed and rational debate about the reforms. Recognising the need for a “comprehensive stock take” by the council, Bewick announced that an independent review and assessment of the plans will be undertaken and brought back to the Children and Young People’s committee, prior to any decision being taken.
Green councillor and spokesperson on children and young people, Alex Phillips, said:
“Thanks to the work of Greens pushing for the Labour administration to listen to the 10,000+ signatories of this petition during Full Council in December, they have now agreed to hold an independent review of their proposals on the Learning Support Service.
“Although the Greens agreed to modernise the service in February 2015, they provided no mandate for changes to staff terms and conditions and removal of specialist posts. These are Labour proposals newly aligned with their overall cuts agenda, and are rightly being challenged by parents and teachers alike.
“Faced by the prospect of creating a service that no teacher is willing to work for, Labour have had no choice but to back down and go back to the drawing board. We welcome this move, which shows that when residents get together they can make a difference and challenge these pernicious cuts”.