A Scottish council is considering several proposals that would result in teacher numbers being cut in order to fill a hole in its budget of over £10 million next year – and of around £49 million over the next three years.
In a bid to balance its books, Dumfries and Galloway Council, which spent roughly £80 million on teachers’ salaries this year, is considering cutting teachers – despite the fact that this would fly in the face of the agreement between councils and the Scottish government to maintain teacher numbers.
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The council has put forward four proposals that would result in fewer teachers being employed:
- It is considering offering fewer subjects in secondary and prioritising “core subject offerings” to save £470,000 on teacher salaries next year, with that figure rising to over £800,000 per year in subsequent years.
- The council is looking at shortening the school day in secondary by "10 - 15 minutes per day". It suggests that registration could disappear – a cut that recently went ahead in Falkirk Council schools – or periods could be shortened in a move that it estimates would save it £470,000 on teacher salaries next year and over £800,000 per year in subsequent years.
- It is looking at saving the same sum by increasing “networking and digital delivery” in secondary to increase class sizes and, again, reduce teacher numbers.
- The biggest single saving proposal for education, however, relates to the primary sector where the authority is proposing that one hour of the 2.5 hours of preparation time Scottish teachers are entitled to each week is covered by “means other than direct one-to-one replacement”. The authority estimates this would save it £627,000 next year and over £1 million per year in subsequent years because fewer staff would be required.
EIS teaching union general secretary Larry Flanagan said it was likely this meant that instead of a qualified teacher covering non-class contact time this would be covered by “instructors or volunteers”.
Fears over teacher numbers
He said this had been floated previously by other councils but had always been quashed in the end because whilst having input from the likes of active schools coordinators was valuable, this should be over and above the 25 hours of teaching the Scottish government had stipulated that primary schools must deliver.
“If for those 25 hours you are delivering anything less than a qualified teacher, you are de facto diminishing the education provision in the area,” said Mr Flanagan.
He warned that in other areas that had considered similar proposals the EIS had balloted for strike action because such proposals were about “cutting jobs”.
Mr Flanagan added: “The idea you are going to improve the quality of the education children receive by reducing the time they spend with teachers is a nonsense.”
Dumfries and Galloway Council outlined the proposals in a budget options document.
The council stressed that no decisions had been taken but the proposals would form the basis of "discussions and decisions" when setting its budget in February.
Dumfries and Galloway Council needs to save £15.7 million next year. The council – which says it has already made £106 million of cuts since 2010 – has already decided on savings of £3.1 million, meaning there is a need to find a further saving of £12.6 million.
Other proposals on the table include only delivering instrumental music tuition for those pupils sitting national qualifications to save £421,000 per year; giving class teachers more responsibility for additional support for learning to save £535,000 a year; and cutting down the hot meals served in small primaries to save £50,000 a year.
The council is also looking at the possibility of cutting the funding libraries receive to buy new books. The discretionary library book stock funding of £85,000 could be reduced by 85 per cent, the document states, with “the remaining budget focused in a way that reflects changes to library use – particularly digital lending”.