Credit crunch will affect pupils

Continuing professional development, supply cover and even photocopying materials will be hit by the budget freeze

Elizabeth Buie

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Glasgow schools have suffered swingeing budget cuts for the rest of this financial year, wiping out all further continuing professional development, freezing budgets for running costs such as jotters, photocopying and books, and suspending all devolved school management.

Teachers' unions have attacked the moves, with Willie Hart, the Glasgow Association secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, warning: "We cannot sacrifice a whole generation of children to the credit crunch."

In a letter to headteachers, Margaret Doran, executive director of Education Services, explains that the measures are being implemented to address the service's projected overspend of Pounds 2.8 million. The deparment has been asked to cut its budget by a further Pounds 9 million next year.

All CPD programmes, locally and centrally organised, are suspended until the end of March to conserve costs, excluding the "Inset Day 4" and the programme for probationers.

Mr Hart raised fears about the loss of CPD provision, warning that schools were at a "crucial point" in preparing for A Curriculum for Excellence.

In his foreword to HMIE's report, Improving Scottish Education, senior chief inspector Graham Donaldson emphasised the crucial role of CPD: "We have to place professional development, covering both subject content and pedagogy, at the centre of our approach to change if we are to achieve better experiences and outcomes for learners."

Describing the council's financial circumstances as "unprecedented", Ms Doran explains that she is suspending the scheme of devolved school management for the next three months "in order to stop all non-critical spending".

A council spokeswoman said: "The actions being taken are necessary in order to ensure that the service is in the best possible position to tackle the challenges which face us in the next financial year. Authorities across the country are having to consider and implement similar actions for similar reasons."

Mr Hart warned that a consequence of the clawback was that next year, headteachers would rush to spend their budgets rapidly so that they would not suffer the same cuts.

Schools have also been told that teacher supply cover can only be deployed in cases of absence through sickness and strictly in accordance with union agreements. It means that schools which in the past have been relatively sickness-free and deployed part of their sickness budget for other uses will not be able to do so.

Irene Matier, president of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said headteachers now required permission from various people who would assess whether items, such as books, jotters, or photocopying materials were essential or whether spending on them could be delayed for a few months.

The measures also created an inequal situation because some heads had already spent their budgets, while others had been more prudent, thus losing that money.

The picture across Scotland was patchy in terms of budget problems, said Mrs Matier.

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Elizabeth Buie

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