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Special needs kids lose their skilled teaching assistants

SPECIALIST teachers are being told they will no longer be able to teach children who need extra support due to cuts, the National Education Union (NEU) warned yesterday.

Unqualified teaching assistants are set to replace a special educational needs team employed by East Sussex Council after it issued the staff with new contracts.

In what has been branded a cost-cutting exercise and a deskilling of the service, highly qualified and experienced teachers will now only be employed to give advice to schools and class teachers.

But children with autism and speech and language difficulties have "acute" support needs, said Lewes, Eastbourne and Wealden NEU secretary Phil Clarke.

"We are very disappointed that the council management have refused to compromise at all over this,” he added.

"Our team members, many of whom currently teach children with special educational needs for most of the working week, have been willing to move to mainly advisory roles.

“We are however baffled as to why the council would move to contracts that mean these specialists cannot teach under any circumstances."

Following an internal ballot, members of the NEU who organise most of the affected team have agreed to support strike action against the changes but describe it as "absolutely a last resort."

Parents and teachers were urged to contact their local councillors about the issue in a bid to avoid industrial action.

Members of the team have put forward what they describe as a "flexible compromise," which they say the council has ignored, adding that it seems determined that the service will only offer direct support to children from staff who are not qualified teachers.

East Sussex Council had not responded at the time of going to press.

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