Cuts in expenditure run deep in schools

5th March 2010 at 00:00

For the first time in many years there will be thousands of teachers, lecturers, parents and pupils on the streets of Glasgow tomorrow as part of the EIS campaign "Why must our children pay?". For many involved, it is their first experience of this kind of action and highlights the seriousness of the crisis facing Scottish education at the start of 2010.

Before looking at some examples of the impact of cuts in expenditure, let us challenge the widely-held belief that the present economic situation is inevitable.

The EIS does not hold to that belief and feels that the current spending on Trident and identity cards could well be redirected more positively towards public services.

Local authorities have just set their budgets for the coming year, with council tax frozen for another year. We know this is a popular move, but it has to be recognised that this freeze will continue to be accompanied by reduced services, and education is bearing a large proportion of the brunt of this.

In the past few weeks, I have visited many schools around Scotland and have seen some fantastic teaching and learning. It is disheartening, to say the least, that much of this work will be jeopardised by the swingeing 2010-11 budget cuts. Indeed, much of it may face possible decimation in the future, as we are told by all concerned that the coming financial year is merely the "tip of the iceberg".

Are we seriously saying the young people of Scotland, the future generation, do not deserve the best money can buy? Curriculum for Excellence has the potential to change the face of education for these young people, and give them experiences that can not only change their lives, but change this country for the better.

It can help to produce young people with skills that prospective employers are looking for and the confidence to nurture future leaders. It would be a grave error to let this initiative fail because of a lack of resourcing, but that looks increasingly inevitable as the cuts begin to bite.

Teachers cannot be expected to embrace this change with open arms, while their arms are full of marking, discipline referrals, documents they do not have time to read and yet more planning folders. They need adequate time for continuing professional development to enable them to take this exciting initiative forward in the best interest of Scottish schoolchildren.

In recent years, we have seen some very positive work in our schools to include as many young people as possible in mainstream education. Teachers and support staff have done a marvellous job in providing a stimulating and enriching experience for these young people. Indeed, the recent Scottish Government advert, which makes clear to parents their rights to additional support for their child, is testament to this success.

So it is a travesty that the very areas in the front line of the cuts in local authorities are support staff, who are crucial to the learning and teaching of these youngsters.

If inclusion is to continue to be a success, these cuts must be reversed; otherwise, the Government is guilty of building up the expectations of parents only to disappoint them when they look for that support.

It is impossible in this space, and indeed demoralising, to outline all the cuts which we are aware of and the huge impact they will have on Scottish education. But it is crucial that all those reading this join us on the march and rally tomorrow (Kelvingrove Park at 10.30am) to let the politicians and the public know that the EIS and Scottish teachers, lecturers and parents are prepared to take a stand against the continuing threat to our children's future.

Our children are worth more than platitudes: invest in them.

Helen Connor is president of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

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