Colleges welcome #163;10m while other sectors fear cuts

15th February 2013 at 00:00
Early years and schools face harsh local budget reductions in 2013-14

Scotland's further education colleges were still in the dark about how to use an unexpected extra #163;10 million for 2013-14, as TESS went to press.

The Scottish government surprised the sector last week by announcing a partial reversal of cuts announced in last autumn's spending review; finance secretary John Swinney also announced #163;51 million more than expected for 2014-15.

But the Scottish Funding Council will not advise colleges on how the #163;10 million should be spent until it receives guidance form education secretary Michael Russell. That letter had still to arrive a week after the budget announcement on 6 February.

The EIS union, which represents FE lecturers, said it was "not credible" to describe the budget as positive for the sector, as there still remained a cut of #163;24.6 million for 2013-14. This, after several years of real-terms budget reductions, would have "serious and damaging consequences for FE colleges".

The extra #163;10 million was "useful", said Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress - but colleges were still facing "unprecedented cuts".

Education secretary Michael Russell insisted that the announcement showed "we are a listening government".

Labour finance spokesman Ken Macintosh said smaller-than-expected cuts to FE "may be an admission of past mistakes, but does little to repair the damage already caused, let alone that yet to come".

The government was also criticised for not taking on the Liberal Democrat idea to extend free nursery places to an extra 24,000 families.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, who pointed out that 42 per cent of two-year-olds in England benefited from free nursery education compared with 1 per cent in Scotland, believes maintaining the status quo could "lock in a gap in attainment" from an early age.

Meanwhile, a number of local authorities have set their annual budgets and have made some cuts that will be unpalatable to schools and teachers.

Glasgow schools are facing heavy cuts, with the council approving plans to save #163;70 million across its entire budget. There will also be increased nursery and school meal charges.

East Renfrewshire is reducing the number of P1 teachers and replacing a number of pre-five teachers with nursery nurses, as well as cutting free fruit from P4-7 and deciding not to renew contracts for foreign language assistants.

Other councils' budgets have shown a willingness to increase charges for music tuition, increase class sizes and cut administrative posts. TESS will carry a comprehensive round-up next week.

henry.hepburn@tess.co.uk.

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