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Subjects at risk in Aberdeen cash crisis

Aberdeen may be forced to trim the number of subjects offered to senior secondary pupils because of the city council's deepening financial crisis. The demise of non-statutory community education is another option as education faces cuts next year of at least Pounds 2.5 million. The figure may be substantially more.

Councillors warned this week that core services will be at risk in 1997-98 and the city may be unable to meet some statutory requirements. The broad range of subjects in the fourth, fifth and sixth years is one target being considered by officials. This would not infringe the council's legal commitments.

John Stodter, Aberdeen's director of education, advised the Labour-controlled education committee on Tuesday that further savings "will have to be made by reducing the level of provision at the core of the education service and almost inevitably by examining levels of teacher provision".

Council projections show the budget will be adrift next year by Pounds 14 million, a figure that could rise to Pounds 18 million. Education spending was protected this year despite a savings target of Pounds 5.8 million, 6 per cent of the budget. Other departments took a 10 per cent cut.

Jim Wyness, the education convener, suggested education was unlikely to be so favourably treated again. Mr Wyness, a former Hazlehead Academy teacher, said: "We are not like other councils. We do not have have schools that are half full. We do not have a religious divide. You cannot close a school in Aberdeen since most are at capacity. We have removed practically everything that is discretionary and it is going to be cuts on top of cuts."

Aberdeen has reduced its advisory service to four staff, halved the repairs and maintenance budget, stopped employing language assistants, deferred teacher appraisal and raised charges for school meals, transport and music tuition.

Education funding in the three other cities is likely to be equally hard hit. Glasgow is looking at cuts of more than Pounds 19 million, although further school closures may be ruled out in election year. Redundancy offers for teachers are one option.

In Edinburgh, the city council is facing a cut of at least 4 per cent in education spending, totalling some Pounds 6 million, which would endanger the entire community education service and nursery places for three-year-olds. Teacher redundancies may not be ruled out.

In Dundee, officials are working on projected cuts for education of some Pounds 4 million, on top of a Pounds 3 million cut this year.

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