Support staff at schools throughout Dumfries and Galloway are concerned about restructuring plans that could impact on pupils needing extra help.
The council is proposing to re-allocate a number of hours of support to schools but staff are worried there won’t be sufficient help for pupils where it is most needed.
The move comes on top of an “insulting” two per cent pay offer to all council workers which has resulted in trade union Unison balloting members in education support services on strike action.
Karen Korus, a senior steward in education and health and safety officer with Unison, said: “Our members are angry, frustrated, and insulted. These proposed changes are affecting schools throughout Dumfries and Galloway causing added pressure to an already overworked staff cohort.
“They now fear for the safety on delivering adequate needs for the pupils they support.
“A high number of staff are suffering from stress due to the extra pressures put upon them with some even frequently missing out on their lunch break due to staff shortage for various reasons.”
Mrs Korus is also chairperson of the Joint Safety Committee and is a member of Unison Scotland’s education issues group where members working in early years settings and schools work together to improve the terms and conditions.
She added: “The Dumfries and Galloway branch of Unison welcomes feedback from all non-teaching staff. This will allow this information to be shared at Scottish level about local key issues.
“We want to hear from education support staff from all over the area, from Stranraer to Sanquhar, from Castle Douglas to Annan, and from Newton Stewart to Lockerbie.
“After all the hard work the education support staff have put in throughout the pandemic and the fact they ran school hubs caring for other key workers during lockdown and restrictions, the staff are angry and ready for industrial action.
“They didn’t get the £500 that health and social care workers got and they’ve been offered a measly two per cent pay rise. It’s an insult. Throughout the pandemic support staff have put themselves at risk to look after the children of other key workers to keep the country going yet they got no thanks for it.
“They do their very best supporting children with different types of behaviour, mental health problems, children not coping and feeling anxious and scared and deserve a much bigger increase than two per cent.”
Unison, Unite and GMB are all balloting council staff on strike action over pay.
A council spokeswoman said: “As part of our council’s provision of additional support, we undertake an annual allocation of learning assistants.
“Each year we work to a budget that gives us a weekly allocation of hours, which is then distributed across all our schools and learning environments by using school data and information from education plans about levels of need.
“We do not allocate hours to individual children. We allocate hours to our schools and the headteacher then uses the allocation as required. Some schools have seen their allocation reduce while others have seen their allocation increase.”