Concerned parents lobby councillors over school job cuts

Council chiefs say an ongoing review will benefit schools but concerned parents fear the worst for some of the most vulnerable pupils.

Parents have lobbied Moray councillors arriving for a meeting in Elgin over proposed job cuts among office staff at primary and nursery schools in the region.

So far, only staff directly affected have been consulted. Councillors will hear the details in due course.

Moray Council chiefs say an ongoing review will benefit schools but concerned parents fear the worst for some of the most vulnerable pupils.

More than 500 people have signed online and paper petitions launched by Buckie mum Sophie McWhirter from Cluny Primary Parent Council.

Speaking outside the council building, she said: “With 40% of our children in schools across Moray having additional support needs, the consistency of a smiling face at the door to welcome them when they arrive – as well as the usual routine of knowing who they’re going to see – is hugely important.

“The lack of that structure for them would be really detrimental.”

According to leaked information about the consultation, administration staff face the possibility of reduced hours, lower pay or loss of jobs.

The campaigners say the office staff “go above and beyond to ensure children are safe, happy and well looked after.”

Ms McWhirter highlighted the fact that, on behalf of parents, some staff are responsible for routinely checking the blood-sugar levels of certain pupils.

“I’ve spoken to some staff members who have to set alarms on their personal phones seven, eight, ten times a day to remind them of when each individual child needs to be administered with that lifesaving medication,” she said.

In a statement, the council has said the changes would mean savings, a simpler way to provide cover for absence and a reduction in routine admin tasks.

Independent councillor Derek Ross, a former teacher, said: “There’s been a consultation but there’s been no consultation with parents and parents are going to be the people who are affected most by this, parents and children – and, of course, teachers because it will impact on teachers’ workload if admin staff aren’t in schools.”

For confidentiality reasons, the proposal has initially been handled by council officers without reference to elected members.

The council’s position is that admin staff “play a key role in the effective and efficient operation of our Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings and primary schools”.

A statement issued earlier this month said: “Bringing together ELC and primary school administrative staff in a more resilient and sustainable business support structure seeks to enable new ways of working to be taken forward to address the challenges staff are experiencing and support them in delivering a more effective and sustainable service to pupils, families and colleagues.

“The proposed new line management and staffing structure would retain the benefits of the close working relationships within ELC settings and primary schools and deliver efficiency savings.”

It added: “Greater use of digital technology to complete tasks currently done manually aims to support staff to manage their workload within their contracted hours.

“The proposed team structure would also make it easier to provide cover for staff absence.”

Industrial action has not been ruled out.

Unison Moray claims that the current proposals would leave a significant number of its members hundreds of pounds a week worse off.

STV News understands the council is planning a similar review next year involving staff in its high schools.

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