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Jobs at risk despite pledge to Borders

Around 100 teachers, community education workers and support staff face redundancy in Scottish Borders unless the Scottish Secretary relaxes his spending squeeze. Michael Forsyth pledged to ease the authority's plight when he met councillors last week after the Scottish Grand Committee debate in Selkirk. But council leaders at Tuesday's education committee stressed jobs were still on the line, despite Mr Forsyth's anticipated generosity. Compulsory redundancies may be needed.

Elsewhere, Highland is axing 69 full-time equivalent jobs, trimming staffing in secondary schools by 2 per cent, as part of a Pounds 2.83 million package of education cuts and councillors in the Western Isles have agreed a 3 per cent reduction of Pounds 560,000, with several jobs lost in central administration. Half of the cut will affect the overall staffing complement.

David Suckling, education convener in the Independent-run Scottish Borders, said serious damage would be caused even if a planned cut of 8 per cent, which might mean a loss of Pounds 3.7 million from the education budget, was reduced to around 5.5 per cent. The policy and resources committee is likely to settle the matter in 10 days.

Among the planned cuts at 8 per cent are the loss of 27 secondary teachers, 26 primary curriculum support staff in music, art, physical education and outdoor education, 22 community education staff, 12 music instructors, six swimming pool staff, four advisers and three administrators.

John Christie, the council's director of education, said the cut in secondary staffing would mean less management time, increases in class sizes, falling standards of teaching and learning and a likely increase in staff absence because of the extra stress. Similar burdens would hit primary staff. School spending on books and materials will be hacked by a further Pounds 200, 000. Mr Christie said Pounds 700,000 had already come out of the devolved management allocation over the past two years.

The council is considering closing two rural primaries at Foulden and Roberton, although it may not go ahead if it can raise council tax levels. Mr Christie said other cuts may be reinstated depending on the final settlement. Jobs in primary curriculum support top the list followed by those in secondary and community education.

David Lindores, the council's vice-convener, said: "We are being forced to make choices which are all unacceptable"

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