COUNCILLORS will decide whether to increase schools’ additional support needs budget by £500,000.
At the moment, Moray has 2,300 pupils receiving additional support – 20% of the total school roll.
On Wednesday the children and young people’s services committee heard the budget had not increased in real terms for five years, and the £7.3 million spent in the last year was not enough to meet demand.
Almost £60,000 of extra funding had to be found to meet the shortfall.
As well as pressures from addressing council and government aims – such as Getting it Right For Every Child, Curriculum for Excellence and the promotion of earlier intervention – staffing issues have also impacted.
With the merging of the education and social care departments the head of additional support needs post was deleted, two inclusion manager jobs were reduced to one with some duties passed on to the children’s wellbeing manager, and the involvement of quality improvement officers has dropped because of a reduction in numbers.
Children need additional help for a wide range of reasons including disability, learning difficulties, poor school attendance, bullying and emotional issues.
Council leader Allan Wright suggested the increase being sought for the remainder of the current financial year should come from council
reserves, while the next full annual
allocation should be identified within the overall children and young
people’s services budget.
He said: "We have quite properly been asked to recant to full council that the budget be increased by half a million pounds.
"Some may find it surprising, but I’m prepared to support that move at full council."
Forres councillor George Alexander, a former secondary school teacher, said the extra money would be "absolutely essential".
He added: "Is someone researching what’s going on? I don’t understand why this need is growing and growing in our schools."
Laurence Findlay, head of schools and curriculum development,
assured him investigations and studies had been carried out. He added that
recognition and diagnoses had also improved over the last 10 years.
"Before, some of these children would have suffered in silence throughout their whole education," Mr Findlay said.
John Divers, councillor for Elgin South, said it was important for staff to identify pupils with additional needs.
A recommendation will now go to full council that the annual budget for additional support needs is increased by £500,000.