Scotland’s capital city is planning at least £500,000 worth of education cuts in order to balance its budget, through proposals including the removal of teachers from nursery schools.
In newly released budget proposals, City of Edinburgh Council has revealed plans to take primary teachers and headteachers out of its nursery schools and replace them with early years practitioners in a bid to save £350,000. The authority also plans to save a further £200,000 through cuts to support for learning – the total support for learning budget currently is £40.6 million.
Overall, Edinburgh needs to find £41 million worth of savings, according to the document published on Friday.
A final list of savings will go to a full council meeting next month. However, the papers state that “it is likely that the majority of the savings proposals set out (or alternatives of an equivalent value) will require to be implemented”.
By removing teachers from nursery schools, the council said it hoped to address staff shortages in primary and save money.
According to a council spokesman, there were a total of 90 teachers and seven headteachers working in the early years, although under the plans some would be retained to support early years practitioners.
Shortage of primary teachers
The document states: “Many council-run nurseries have individually assigned headteachers and teachers. At the same time, there is a shortage of primary teachers. We can aid primary school recruitment by creating a wider pool of locality-based headteachers, and teachers who are not attached to specific schools. This would mean an increase in early years practitioners permanently attached to each nursery. Analysis of Care Inspectorate findings indicates no difference in quality between nurseries which have qualified teaching staff on site permanently and those that are supported in other ways.”
The Scottish government made a commitment in its 2007 manifesto to give every nursery child “access” to a nursery teacher.
Official figures show, however, that there were just 821 teachers working in early learning and childcare last year, down from 1,689 in 2007 – the year the SNP came to power – meaning nursery teacher numbers have more than halved over the 11-year period. In 2017, there were 921 teachers working in early learning and childcare.
However, the figures for graduates other than teachers working in the sector is rising.
Nonetheless, the EIS teaching union argues that teachers are vital to ensuring a high-quality educational experience for young children in early years establishments, especially if the Scottish government wants to succeed in its goal of closing attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils.
The author of a report published in 2016 into the impact of the fall, Professor Aline-Wendy Dunlop, said: “If the government has the ambition to put equity for all children with their closing-the-gap agenda, they can’t afford any further attrition in [early-years] teacher numbers.”
The news of the proposed changes to the early years workforce in Edinburgh comes ahead of the introduction of 1,140 free hours per year by 2020 for three- and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds, up from the current entitlement of 600 hours.