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Budget cuts on horizon

Efficiency savings for schools could be as much as 3 per cent in the coming year.

Schools across Scotland are facing the prospect of budget cuts - some by as much as pound;200,000 - to meet the Scottish Government's target of 2 per cent efficiency savings across the board.

But there are also warnings that the real crunch on education budgets may not come until 2009 - when council chiefs will have had more time to re- allocate money under the concordat they signed with the SNP Government.

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said: "There hasn't been time in this first year for authorities to make major changes. But there is anxiety about what will happen in the future."

Brian Cooklin, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, reported widespread concerns about budgetary pressures, mainly on staffing levels.

South Lanarkshire Council is understood to be proposing reductions in management time and structures as well as cuts to its behaviour support staffing levels. Primary deputes may have to take on more teaching duties.

Schools in East Lothian are facing cuts of 3 per cent in their budgets and will have to pay 3 per cent of PPP costs.

Mr Cooklin said: "Several authorities are looking at how 2 per cent efficiency savings can be made and are doing it in different ways. We haven't got a clear picture yet, because budgets have not yet been settled. But some heads are facing cuts of pound;200,000 or more."

Secondary schools were being squeezed on two fronts - under pressure to meet class-size targets for S1S2 in English and maths and to deliver two hours' quality PE for every child, while at the same time facing cuts in staffing allocations, said Mr Cooklin.

Inevitably, he added, there would be a knock-on effect on the time and resources senior management could devote to implementing initiatives such as A Curriculum for Excellence.

Highland Council's education, culture and sport department is looking for an additional pound;2 million from the authority's central resources to plug a hole in its budget, caused mainly by the high costs of placing pupils with significant additional support needs in other authorities.

In Clackmannanshire, the entire responsibility for school budgets has been devolved to headteachers since April last year.

Ralph Barker, headteacher of Alloa Academy, welcomed the greater freedom available to him. He acknowledged that, in theory, a headteacher in his position could choose to employ less experienced, and therefore lower-paid, teachers to reduce costs.

His options for budget cuts lay mainly in staffing, including delivering the curriculum more cheaply through video-conferencing, particularly at Advanced Higher.

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