Councils line up cuts

18th February 2011 at 00:00
The TESS's annual budget survey shows that local authorities have not spared education

Education has borne the brunt of the most savage cuts in the history of Scotland's 32 local authorities.

Councils insist they have done their utmost to protect teachers' jobs and find education savings elsewhere, but The TESS's annual budget survey reveals the profession has still taken a big hit.

Most authorities report a real-terms decrease in education spending, with worse to come: no let-up is anticipated in next year's budgets and some authorities warn that compulsory redundancies will be harder to stave off in 2012.

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Education Directors in Scotland, said: "I don't think anybody can argue that these are efficiencies or a tidying-up exercise."

Budgets devolved to schools are coming under huge pressure in most areas - savings of pound;3.1 million in Edinburgh and pound;2.7 million in North Lanarkshire are being demanded. But the full impact on schools hinges on whether teachers' terms and conditions can be revised.

These have been proposed by Finance Secretary John Swinney and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, but they have to be implemented through the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, whose meeting last week broke up without agreement.

If the deal - which includes a pay freeze, removal of salary conservation and increased contact time for probationers - is rejected, authorities will have to find savings elsewhere. In Fife, for example, the review of teachers' terms and conditions accounts for pound;2 million of pound;6.7 million in education savings.

Promoted posts are to become rarer following this month's budgets; Angus and Dundee are among authorities achieving sizeable savings by reducing their number. But the first jobs to go will often belong to those who work alongside teachers, including classroom assistants, administrative staff, foreign language assistants and educational psychologists.

Special needs and music services take hefty blows around the country, and it is clear that no area is sacrosanct: free lunches, milk and fruit will become rarer sights.

Ronnie Smith, Educational Institute of Scotland general secretary, feared the cuts would have "ramifications on the attractiveness of the teaching profession" and condemned their "short-sightedness", describing additional support cuts as "particularly offensive".

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said its "guiding principle" in talking to authorities about cuts was preserving the quality of education. "Normally you would expect that to mean not cutting teacher numbers," he said.

Mr Stodter said the situation was likely to get worse unless a "re- engineering" of the system was agreed.

Authorities - 22 of which provided information out of 27 which had set budgets as The TESS went to press - stress that decisions have been taken in the midst of the most severe economic conditions since the 32-authority structure came into being in the mid-1990s.

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