RAF flies into budget storm

20th August 1999 at 01:00
MORAY spends 10 per cent of its pound;4.3 million special needs budget on supporting the children of RAF servicemen and women at Kinloss and Lossiemouth air bases.

The council has long argued that the air force presence, 10 per cent of the total RAF establishment in the UK, should be taken into account in the Government's financial allocations and is to raise the matter with the Scottish Executive.

A report by Kevin Gavin, the director of education, suggests the council may be a victim of its own success since "there is evidence RAF personnel request transfers from bases abroad where school systems are unable to cater as well for special needs pupils".

Officials are also concerned at the "turbulence" to the two primaries most directly affected, Abbeylands and Kinloss, by the high turnover of RAF personnel.

The council also points out that the upheaval facing Kinloss primary in particular effectively rules it out from any meaningful part in national target-setting.

"It makes it virtually impossible to compare a number of schools with another school of similar size and location as the turbulence factor makes a mockery of any continuity and progression within the school," Mr Gavin has warned councillors.

Children from families which moved around a great deal brought "associated learning or behavioural difficulties which means that their needs require reassessment to avoid problems becoming entrenched. For these vulnerable pupils the constant change sometimes contributes to their insecurity and steps have to be taken to compensate for this."

The authority estimates that 13 special needs pupils from service families moved into the area in the course of last session, while only two moved out.

The council admits it has had no luck with previous approaches for help. The normal Government line is that, once allocations for local authorities are fixed, it is up to each council how it spends its money. The normal rejoinder is that the cash is never enough.

Mr Gavin stressed: "This is a very sensitive issue and Moray Council would in no way wish to raise fears or cause anxiety on the part of those RAF personnel with special needs children."

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