Shieldhill parents’ anger as son’s school help suddenly cut

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The parents of an autistic boy who gets extra support in school have been told this has been slashed from two hours a day to 2.5 hours a week.

Now, in a bid to keep his five-year-old son getting the educational support he needs, dad Michael Edmond is having to go into school twice a day to change Ryan’s pull-up nappies.

Although the family now live in Shieldhill, their two boys, Ryan and Ewan, still attend Bantaskin Primary, where they feel Ryan has been making good progress.

“Ryan has a fear of toilets, so he’s still wearing pull-ups,” explained Michael.

“I went in to school on Monday to drop the boys off and I was told that the support he gets is being dropped from two hours a day to 2.5 hours a week, starting immediately.

“We don’t want him to lose the educational support he gets, so I’ll have to go into school twice a day to change him.

“I am self-employed and I’m able to do it – but what would happen if I couldn’t?

“I am angry and disappointed and I don’t believe the school is happy about it – I think the decision was taken at a higher level.”

Falkirk Council has strenuously denied that the change is due to cuts to the children’s services budget but Michael cannot see why else the change would have been introduced so suddenly and without any consultation.

He believes many other parents of children with additional support needs are in a similar situation but feel they can’t speak out publicly.

“I have heard from other parents that children are no longer getting support to monitor diabetes – I believe cuts are happening now,” he said.

The Edmonds raised their concerns after the furore surrounding letters issued in November to parents of all pupils in Falkirk schools.

The letters sparked a huge controversy by saying each headteacher were being asked to save tens of thousands of pounds – or more – in a bid to save a total of £5.83 million in children’s services in each of the next five years.

Since then parents have been consulted on what savings they feel can be made.

Falkirk Council insists this change has no relation to those forthcoming cuts.

But the family says the sudden change is particularly difficult for Ryan who has communication difficulties and does not cope well with changes to routine.

They are worried it will undo the good work that has been done already.

“We have lots of meetings with the school, psychologists, social workers and so on and they have careful plans,” explained Michael.

“Yes, the plans change but not the level of support. This came out of nowhere!

“Initially, we were promised high-level support for Ryan but then we were told he could only get ten hours a week, which wasn’t really enough.

“But the school has been really good with him and we have seen big improvements.

“He wouldn’t talk at all at first but he is now talking more. He watches what is happening and is starting to participate.

“However, because a lot of it is one-to-one it takes a lot of staff time and it’s not being funded properly.”

A spokesman for Falkirk Council said: ““We stress that no budget proposals have been approved and that this situation is entirely local to the school and existing additional support budgets.

“Any final decisions on budget setting for the following year will be taken at the Council meeting expected at the end of February.

“We will continue to support the school to ensure the most appropriate support is in place to meet the child’s needs.

“Bantaskin has a higher number of hours for additional support needs allocated for this session.”