Classroom assistants who sign for deaf Northamptonshire children and translate lessons into braille at risk of redundancy

A proposal to drastically cut a service that helps youngsters with hearing and visual impairments to learn in Northamptonshire schools has put 44 jobs at risk.

Friday, 20th January 2017, 5:04 pm
Updated Friday, 20th January 2017, 5:37 pm
A service, which gives classroom support to children with visual and hearing impairments in Northamptonshire is to face drastic cuts.

Northamptonshire County Council is consulting on plans to largely disband its Sensory Impairment Service, whose remit includes sign language and braille translation for deaf and blind children.

The cash-strapped authority says it will save £280,000 every year by passing the responsibility onto the schools themselves to provide their own impairment assistance.

County Hall Unison branch secretary Kevin Standishday, said the council staff affected were "pretty gutted" by the plans.

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"These are really committed people, they do really quite difficult jobs.

"They can be at three schools in a week and they can form a real bond with the pupils they help."

The proposals are now entering a 45-day consultation period.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “The ‘traditional’ model of schools reporting to the county council has changed markedly in recent years with many schools opting to have more autonomy through becoming academies.

“A consultation has now started into proposals, which will see how such a service could still be provided but by the schools directly with the county council giving core support. This would offer more flexibility and an improved service.

“This would allow the county council to still carry out its statutory duties and also be consistent with other areas nationally, while also bringing a financial efficiency of about £280,000.”

The service itself employs 65 full-time staff and costs the council around £2.5 million a year to run.

The plan is to make all of the access and communication support workers - who help directly in the classrooms - redundant. Instead, the Sensory Impairment Service would provide training for schools.

In some cases, communication support workers could have their employment transferred over to individual schools, academies or trusts.

However, the cut has perplexed Mr Standishday, as Sensory Impairment Service mostly funded through the Dedicated Schools Grant provided to the council by central Government.

He said: "It's an odd cut because I cannot see where the savings will be made."