TWO North Ayrshire Councillors have clashed over Classroom Assistants in North Ayrshire.

North Ayrshire Council Depute Leader John Bell and his SNP rival, Cllr Scott Davidson, have been adversaries on the issue for a number of months.

And this week, the Labour councillor praised the rise in classroom assistants in our local schools.

But Cllr Davidson said that it was down to the SNP and funding from the Scottish Government.

In 2016/17 there were 350 FTE classroom assistants in North Ayrshire. That figure has increased to 366 FTE in 2017/18.

Speaking about the figures, North Ayrshire Labour’s Education Member John Bell said: “Classroom assistants do a valuable job and these new figures show that there are more in North Ayrshire schools this year than last.

“There are enormous financial pressures on councils due to cuts imposed by central government but despite that North Ayrshire Labour will be protecting the classroom assistant budget for the second year in a row by keeping it at its current level.

“In fact, the last time the classroom assistant budget was cut was three years ago under the SNP.

“Whilst the number of classroom assistants in our schools is up, council officers did redeploy 25 classroom assistants, whose temporary contracts were expiring, to be retrained as early years practitioners.

“Not only did this deal with a historic overspend on classroom assistants but it helped our workforce planning ahead of the expansion of early years to 1140 hours.

“This forward planning means that next year we will be able to pilot the early year’s expansion in a number of schools benefitting parents and children.”

Councillor Davidson hit back and said: “I welcome Councillor Bell’s praise for the commitment made by the Scottish Government to increase free early learning and childcare.

“However he has failed to acknowledge that the extra classroom assistants in North Ayrshire are also a direct result of the SNP government in Holyrood giving extra money to the council.

“The additional classroom assistants are funded directly by the Nurturing/Attainment Challenge Fund as well as the Pupil Equity Fund paid directly to Head Teachers.

“In fact 63 of those 366 classroom assistants are supported by funding coming directly from the Scottish Government.

“The most important thing here is that the number of classroom assistants has increased.

“However we have SNP Education Secretary John Swinney to thank for that not John Bell!”