Headteachers in Cardiff say they are having to shed teaching assistant jobs in order to cover the costs of putting them on a new pay scale.
From September, Cardiff council will introduce a new, three-level pay scale for teaching and classroom assistants. This is intended to differentiate between learning support assistants and teaching assistants on the first level, nursery nurses on the second level, and classroom administrative support on the third level.
It is anticipated that the highest-skilled assistants, at level 1, will be offered a salary of pound;11,000 a year in place of their current, hourly pay of pound;5.60. Cardiff schools are being given an extra pound;2,000 a year to cover the cost.
But some schools complain that this is insufficient to fund the necessary increases in pay. Colin Skinner, head of Roath Park primary, employs seven learning support assistants, most of whom provide one-to-one support for special needs pupils. He has had to cut back total LSA hours from 200 to 85 a week, and one LSA has taken voluntary redundancy.
He said: "I'm a big advocate of non-teaching staff having a pay rise. Their roles and responsibilities have changed a lot recently, and they have had no financial incentives. But these increases will cost pound;18,000. It will make a huge hole in the pound;21,000 we've been given to fund workload reduction."
June Jamieson, Roath Park LSA, said: "It's great to be recognised and salaried. But if we're taking a cut in our hours, it just defeats the whole point. We'll earn more or less the same as we do now."
David Pedwell, head of Oakfield primary, agrees. He will be able to fund the pay rise for the one LSA at his school with minimal impact. But he will have to abandon plans to recruit additional support staff.
He said: "Under the workload agreement, LSAs will be undertaking work they don't currently do. It has huge training and salary implications. I wonder whether people have thought the whole thing through."
But a spokeswoman from Cardiff council said the cost implications for primaries had been considered carefully, and estimated at an average of pound;2,000 per school. "It is up to schools to decide how they wish to spend their delegated budgets, and how many teaching assistants they wish to employ." she said.
"Delegated budgets have been significantly increased by funding for the workload agreement, and this has been greatly weighted in favour of primary schools."
The Welsh Assembly government has completed consultation on proposed standards and regulations for higher-level teaching assistants, which are due for consideration by the Assembly in early July.