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Support staff cut to fund arts

FURTHER confirmation of the pressure facing the expressive arts in primary schools has emerged this week from Dumfries and Galloway. The council's education committee will be asked on Tuesday to reduce the hours of clerical and administrative employees by the equivalent of 20 full-time staff to boost time given to the expressive arts.

But this will disadvantage a number of smaller primaries where support time has been heavily subsidised in the past. The changes will therefore not be fully implemented until August 1999.

A survey by the authority found that, while the 5-14 guidelines stipulate three hours a week for the expressive arts, almost one third of its primaries do not provide specialist support in one of PE, music, drama and art, or in more than one area.

"Secondary schools have expressed concerns about reduction in quality in some areas of children's development in the expressive arts on transfer to secondary," a council report states.

Dumfries and Galloway officials are also concerned at the "questionable" approach to the employment of visiting specialists. Some of them have been on temporary contracts for up to 18 years and travel to as many as eight different schools. This has caused recruitment problems as staff leave for more rewarding jobs.

The authority plans to establish teams of specialist teachers in PE, music and art, on a geographical basis, with core staff on permanent contracts. It feels class teachers can cope with drama.

The report from the south-west provides the latest evidence that the expressive arts are suffering disproportionately from staffing cuts. A Scottish Arts Council audit revealed in March that drama and dance in primaries were in "a particularly parlous state".

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