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Cuts which damage quality

David Henderson hears the new president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland outline his priorities for action.

TOO MANY councils are slashing secondary school budgets to remain within government spending guidelines and damaging quality in the classroom, Gordon Mackenzie, head of Balwearie High, Kirkcaldy, told delegates.

The new HAS president said many cuts were imposed during the session after budgets had been allocated, and called for fair funding.

Mr Mackenzie said: "So much for development planning. Let's be clear - the quality of education for our pupils is being affected. Politicians can quote vast sums of money going into education but how much of this money actually reaches the classroom?

"Much of it is ringfenced, directed towards certain initiatives and often at the expense of core funding. The recent funding from the Chancellor was welcome - no bidding, no top-slicing at authority level," he said.

Secondary budgets varied across the country because there was no national formula. He also cautioned against any downgrading of education as a local authority service when many councils were restructuring and merging education with other services.

Mr Mackenzie piked up the continuing theme of indiscipline, emphasising that incidents of violence and threatening behaviour were no longer isolated.

"Parental perceptions of acceptable behaviour are shifting and an increasing minority of parents are no longer prepared to support the school," he continued.

At the same time, ministers had made their position clear on social inclusion and set authorities targets to reduce exclusions. Heads supported inclusion but could not support any removal of exclusion. "It has to be accepted that there are pupils for whom mainstream education is inappropriate but who can receive their education in a different setting," Mr Mackenzie said.

The rise in indiscipline could be deterring graduates from entering the profession. The McCrone report talked about new recruits but where were they, he asked. "There doesn't appear to be a national strategy for attracting more and better teachers," he said.

Mr Mackenzie backed the employment of bursars to allow heads to refocus on teaching and learning, "the core of what we do". Under their direction, bursars would take over specific duties, freeing senior management to work with staff and parents on classroom teaching.

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