Gwynedd plans much-reduced support for special needs children

Nursery teaching assistants in Gwynedd say the council’s plans to restructure the ABC service will significantly reduce support for 3 and 4-year old children with special needs.

Five ABC units, provide special needs children with a minimum of ten support hours a week to help them prepare for school. Gwynedd council wishes to cut one teaching assistant from each unit and close the units in the afternoon, sending the teaching assistants into schools.

UNISON says currently teaching assistants can support up to 4 children in the units each afternoon but as visits to schools often involve only one child per staff member, the number of children supported could be cut from 24 to as few as 5 for afternoon sessions.

Teaching assistants may be made redundant or face significant travel time to schools in the afternoon in a large, rural county – something UNISON argues, the council has not taken into account. The trade union says time spent travelling is time lost working with children and claims there is a question about how staff would be reimbursed for their travel.

Wendy Allison, UNISON Cymru Wales regional organiser said,

“Teaching assistants are in a state of shock. They are praised by parents for their good work and cannot understand why the council would undermine the service they provide.

“The proposals are ill-thought out, weak on detail and fail to consider the impact on vulnerable children, their families and staff. Senior managers haven’t listened to the warnings of the trades unions.

“UNISON wants these damaging proposals to be shelved and the excellent support provided to some of the most vulnerable children in the county to continue.”

Notes for editors

  • If the teaching assistants (TAs) spend the afternoon doing outreach work in schools the number of children they will be able to work with drops from 4 to 1 in some cases. Assuming each TA currently works with four children this means that the number of children receiving a service drops from 24 to 6.  However with plans to reduce the posts this represents a further drop to just 5 children.  As the numbers demonstrate this will severely restrict access to the service for the children who need it.
  • It is proposed to replace Units in Dwyfor and Meirionnydd with a ‘pop up’ unit which will change each year, but this is a huge area and staff and some of the children may find themselves travelling further. It also reduces capacity in the area.
  • The new service will also require staff to train teachers and teaching assistants in schools. The vision is that more schools will have specialist trained staff as a result. However there is no training programme and the service will lose a significant amount of its capacity to support the children in order to provide this training. UNISON argues they must find a proper means of training the school staff and allow our teaching assistants to carry on providing the support to children who need them.


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Press Officer on 07816 538397