More than 1,000 teaching posts have gone and 2,400 support staff have lost their jobs in the past 18 months. Nearly 700 went in the aftermath of local government reorganisation, according to figures released this week.
The survey, published by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Office, is, however, being treated cautiously because of the difficulties in compiling data in the first year of the new unitary authorities. More accurate figures will be available next year as councils adopt common practices.
In December 1994, local authorities employed 53,654 full-time teachers but in July this year the number had fallen by 1,065 to 52,589, a 2 per cent cut. Overall, councils axed around 10,000 jobs.
Craig Duncan, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said the figures ignored the loss of part-time, temporary teachers. He commented: "We know from our own records on retirements and from the small intake of new teachers that there are clear signs of a reduction. All councils are looking to control their budgets and education is the largest sector. We are concerned to ensure that conditions of service that apply, such as class size limits, will not deteriorate."
Mr Duncan noted that councils are tightening staffing standards when pupil numbers fall, particularly in Glasgow. "Schools that lose a few pupils or have a smaller intake will find they are losing staff," he said.
Ken Wimbor, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "A lot of teachers have taken early retirement and the vacancies have not been filled. There are pressures on the service all over the place."
So far, councils have used voluntary severance packages but this is threatened by changes to the regulations on pensions. The Scottish Office wants the full costs of teachers retiring before the age of 60 to be borne by employers instead of the teachers' superannuation scheme. If councils have to cut staffing, they will be under pressure to sack younger teachers.
Meanwhile, the EIS has stepped up its campaign on underfunding by highlighting the loss of posts and services, school closures and increased charges across Scotland.
Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, said: "Raymond Robertson said in June that the Government had given a priority to education. Now that the effect of cuts in nearly all local authority areas has become apparent, parents and teachers up and down the country will demand an answer to the question, what priority, Mr Robertson?" The EIS says that in Glasgow around 40 teaching posts have gone, along with eight advisers, 10 instructors and staff in English as a second language, visual arts and museum education. In Dundee, five posts and two visiting specialists went in primary, and 13 in secondary. Edinburgh has had a "considerable reduction in staffing". In Aberdeen, four adviser posts have gone along with all modern language assistant posts.
Outside the cities, Aberdeenshire has lost six full-time learning support posts, East Ayrshire has offered early retirement packages to primary teachers, Orkney has axed five teaching posts, West Dunbartonshire has cut back-up jobs, and Dumfries and Galloway has lost 27 primary and 17 secondary posts.