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Education budgets survey reveals no uniform downturn

More evidence has emerged that schools are being spared the financial pain many predicted - at least for the coming financial year - now that North Lanarkshire and Stirling have revealed their education spending plans.

The annual TESS education budgets survey (24 February) found there would be no uniform downward lurch in 2012-13 - and the latest information appears to confirm that there will be some measure of protection for schools.

In North Lanarkshire, the overall learning and leisure service budget of pound;401 million - of which learning accounts for pound;370 million - marks an increase of pound;2.7 million from 2011-12.

A two-year budget was set in February 2011, and the council said no additional savings had been earmarked for devolved schools' budgets, while teacher numbers were being protected.

"This forward-planning approach has ensured that the service approaches the new financial year knowing that the saving proposals are deliverable," said head of resources James McKinstry.

The main savings affecting schools involve:

- workforce-planning savings linked to areas such as average salary adjustments and roll-related adjustments (pound;996,000);

- nationally-determined changes to teachers' terms and conditions (pound;800,000);

- workforce planning savings linked into a review of promotedunpromoted staff ratios (pound;816,000);

- lifting of class-size maxima for English and maths (pound;320,000).

Stirling set a budget at the second attempt, when Labour and Conservative councillors forced through their plans against the will of an SNP minority administration. It was the only authority that reduced council tax - by 1 per cent - with all other councils freezing the local tax, in line with Scottish government wishes.

The education budget of pound;85.7 million is pound;1.9 million down on 2011-12, although Stirling Council says devolved school budgets have fallen by only pound;180,000.

The main savings are:

- school structures and budgets (pound;840,000 - of which pound;330,000 relates to roll reductions, pound;180,000 to devolved schools' budgets);

- effect of 2011-12 savings (pound;405,000);

- joint education service efficiency savings (pound;250,000);

- management efficiencies - non-teaching (pound;190,000);

- teachers - voluntary severance (pound;110,000);

- new home-to-school transport tender (pound;75,000).

The council highlighted that it had found pound;150,000 for new childminders in nurseries and out-of-school care.

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