The full picture has emerged for the first time of how Scotland's councils are responding to the SNP Government's demands for maximum class sizes of 18 in P1-3 - and they will not make happy reading for ministers.
The details, released to the Scottish Liberal Democrats under Freedom of Information legislation, reveal that only two authorities have an unequivocal target date to comply with the policy - Midlothian and Orkney by the 2010-11 session. At the other extreme, Glasgow is refusing point-blank to implement it.
Others, even those run by or including SNP councillors in their ruling administration, are citing cost, accommodation and staffing as factors which will delay the reduction in class sizes. Most prefer a staged approach, even on a school-by-school basis, beginning with the extension of the current P1 class limit of 25 to P2 and then to P3.
The concordat between local and central government includes an agreement that, in return for "record funding" of pound;34.9 billion over the next three years, councils will move "as quickly as is possible" to meet the 18-pupil target. They will be expected to show "year-on-year progress" towards it.
The Government has allocated capital expenditure to help authorities meet the capital costs of adapting and extending school buildings for extra classes, but the councils complain they have been given nothing to defray the recurring costs of hiring additional teachers.
As a result, this survey suggests, the vast majority of authorities are interpreting "as quickly as is possible" in a way which ensures the policy is kicked into the long grass.
The council is taking "a staged approach within a cash-limited budget"
The council has 25 per cent of P1-3 classes with 18 pupils or less. Of these, that have more than 18, half are composite. With around 300 classses to reduce to a maximum of 18 pupils, the council is unable to make this a priority due to the capital costs and no targeted savings identified.
The council has not set a specific strategy for moving to reduce class sizes in P1-3, as this is dependent on a number of factors outwith the education department's control. The supply of suitably-qualified teachers will have a major impact on the ability to meet this target, as will the lack of additional accommodation required.
Argyll and Bute (IndSNP)
Of 79 primary schools, 47 meet the maximum of 18 already. Projecting rolls in session 2009-10 for a maximum of 20 pupils in P1-3, the council would need an additional 17.5 teachers (full-time equivalent) at an estimated cost of pound;717,500; four primaries will need additional classrooms and this will be supported by the school plan fund. Reducing classes further to a maximum of 18 will involve more capital outlay and possibly staff relocation and additional recruitment. Elected members will have to determine how to further this strategy.
Clackmannanshire (Lab minority)
In 2008-09, the starting point will be that no P1 class will exceed 25. A review group has been established to examine class size reductions, but achieving 18 in all P1 classes will have to be phased to ensure adequate teaching spaces and avoid the undesirable knock-on effect of an increased number of P1-2 composites with a maximum of 25.
Dumfries and Galloway (ConLibDem minority)
The council has not yet considered this specifically, but it will be developed as part of the single outcome agreement.
The council will develop our strategy in terms of the concordat with central government and in accordance with the financial resources available.
East Ayrshire (SNP)
The maximum of 25 pupils in P1 will be carried forward into P2 for 2008-09 and to P3 in 2009-10. Efforts are being made within the budget constraints to reduce P1 classes incrementally towards a maximum of 18. The timescale for this is not yet quantifiable.
East Dunbartonshire (LabCon)
The strategy for moving towards the class size reduction is under discussion, and will be considered by the education committee later this session.
East Lothian (SNPLibDem)
The aim is to work with available resources to reduce class sizes in P1-3 to a maximum of 18 pupils, beginning in August 2008.
East Renfrewshire (LabLibDemSNPInd)
There is no fully-developed strategy, pending notification of any possible additional funding for accommodation and additional teachers.
A report will be put to the education committee on June 3.
The council is planning to assess each school individually. Class sizes of 18 may not be achievable in the short term, depending on available resources and current intake levels. In these circumstances, it may be appropriate to set class size limits a little higher to ensure progress towards 18 can be made. The Scottish Government have, so far, provided the council with capital funding of pound;627,000 towards meeting this objective, but no additional revenue funds have been allocated.
Resources will be allocated to employ 27 additional teachers and to reduce class sizes in the early primary years. In session 2008-09, the main priority should be in P1-2. These improvements should, where possible, be delivered without detriment to class sizes in P3-7 or to the number of composite classes in a school. Priority should be given to schools serving areas of deprivation. In future sessions, where resources permit, priority will be given to the reduction of class sizes across P1-3.
A class size maximum of 18 pupils would require 186 new teaching spaces and 397 teachers, at a cost of pound;45 million. International research demonstrates that, unless class sizes are significantly reduced - even halved - and these numbers are maintained throughout a child's education, the impact on pupils is minimal. Rather than pursue a flawed and unfunded policy, the council is implementing the recommendations of our education commission, including a zero tolerance of innumeracy and illiteracy.
No formal strategy has been approved
All primaries have an average class size of less than 25; only five are at 18 or less. Lower class sizes will be seen as a priority, but only within the framework of the finance available.
Midlothian (Lab minority)
P1 class sizes for the coming session will be operating at 25 pupils or less. The vast majority are operating at a significantly lower number. The council is moving towards reducing P1 class sizes to 18 by 2010-11.
The plan is to move to a maximum of 25 in P1-2 from August 2008 and to a maximum of 25 in P3 from August 2009. Further reductions in P1 are possible, but there are no detailed plans firmly in place as yet post-July 2010.
North Ayrshire (Lab)
A forward strategy is currently being discussed, with a number of intermediate options being considered.
North Lanarkshire (Lab)
There are 85 P1-3 and composite classes with fewer than 18 pupils. Reducing all 515 classes to 18 would cost pound;7.5 million a year for extra teachers and pound;25 million for additional classrooms in 40 schools. The service should move progressively towards the 18 maximum. For session 2008-09, it is proposed that a class size of 23 be established for all P1 classes.
The council expects to move towards the commitment, fully effective in August 2010. It has an increasing allocation of money, building to the full amount.
Perth and Kinross (SNPLibDem)
Does not yet have an approved strategy, but work is in progress to assess the implications across the school estate. Indications are that 23 schools (30 per cent) are either fully or partially compliant with the class size maximum (of 18)
The strategy is to roll forward the P1 class size maximum of 25 pupils to P2 for school session 2008-09. This will be developed further to plan beyond 2010.
Scottish Borders (ConLibDemInd)
The council's strategy is to implement the P1-3 class size reduction in line with funding allocated by the Government. With rising rolls in the primary sector, the council cannot make solid plans.
The council is committed to reducing class sizes to 18. There is no issue with this, as they are mainly below 18. The issue is composite classes, as there has been no guidance given, further to a maximum of 25 pupils.
South Ayrshire (Con minority)
Class sizes of 18 as and when circumstances allow, which will be determined on an annual basis by the number of pupils, class structures, the school capacity, the availability of accommodation and funding.
South Lanarkshire (Lab)
No decision on the reduction of class sizes for P1-3 has been taken.
The council is undertaking an in-depth review looking at the consequences of class size reduction to 18, future house build, the capacity within our schools, and the potential cost.
West Dunbartonshire (SNP)
The council reviews its staffing structure annually in relation to the roll of each school and the approved financial settlement. Staffing resources have been and will continue to be made available to reduce class sizes annually, wherever necessary.
West Lothian (SNP)
Not yet documented a strategy.
Western Isles (SNP)
Reductions will be on a phased basis and in line with the accommodation and budgetary provision available, working towards achieving this over a period of time. The process of reducing class sizes is not problematic.