Children should come before cost-cutting

21st January 2011 at 00:00

I read with interest the results of your survey, "Pupil-teacher ratios set to grow in at least 13 councils" (January 7). It is hugely disappointing that, after abandoning its P1-3 class size target of 18, the SNP Government is now standing by while the cap on S1-2 English and maths classes is lifted.

This is not just an issue of class sizes and pupil-teacher ratios: it has wider implications for the teaching profession and it will have a profound impact on the quality of education.

The Liberal Democrats have long argued that pupil-teacher ratios are of more importance than class sizes themselves. And we believe that headteachers and local authorities are best placed to understand the needs of individual pupils within their schools.

However, this latest announcement is not one of decisions made by education chiefs based on what is best for a child's education, but rather one driven by the need to cut costs. Education Secretary Mike Russell said, back in September, that it was his priority to "protect frontline services". This is clearly not the case.

Since 2007, the SNP Government has lost nearly 3,000 teachers; the General Teaching Council for Scotland survey of post-probationer teachers reveals that the number of people who are able to secure full-time, permanent teaching posts is again plummeting; and now local authorities are cutting jobs by upping pupil-teacher ratios to cut costs.

Under the Liberal Democrats, teachers would be in a better position to help children who may be struggling through programmes such as our pupil premium, designed to assist those most in danger of falling behind at school.

At a time of great change in education, we cannot afford to jeopardise the future of thousands of children.

Margaret Smith, MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrats' spokesperson on education and young people.

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