Cuts take a heavy toll in Edinburgh

11th October 1996 at 01:00
In one of the most detailed reports issued so far on the impact of budget reductions, Edinburgh has admitted that "the pace of school developments and the efficiency and effectiveness of [schools] have been adversely affected".

The city council warns that standards are being eroded in key aspects of school life as headteachers struggle to meet a Pounds 1.5 million target for primary and secondary spending cuts. A report to the education committee yesterday (Thursday) by Liz Reid, the director of education, points to worsening staffing levels, less spending on books and equipment, rising class sizes, a more limited range of secondary subjects, a heavier teaching burden for senior staff and less assistance from support staff.

Visiting teachers of art, music and PE in primary schools have borne the major impact of staff cuts. Full-time equivalent numbers have fallen from 66. 1 to 56.9.

Seventy-four out of 86 primaries that responded to a questionnaire said they had reduced their provision and seven had no specialists in any subject. The education department is to investigate the future of the visiting teacher service in primary schools. One suggestion is that they may have to "buy in" help in science and technology.

Secondary schools are also struggling to make savings and staffing levels have fallen below Scottish Office guidelines. Mrs Reid reports: "Restrictions on course choice and subjects offered to senior students are widespread".

Returns from 86 out of Edinburgh's 105 primaries reveal: * Average class sizes have risen in 39 schools, in 14 of them by two pupils.

* 69 schools have cut spending on books and equipment, affecting all areas of the curriculum, including reading and maths schemes.

* 29 schools have less management time for assistant and depute heads.

* 20 schools have reduced hours for clerical and auxiliary staff.

A survey of 22 of the city's 23 secondaries was equally gloomy.

* 14 schools say class sizes have increased, affecting all S1-S5 stages in 11 schools.

* 20 schools have dropped subjects from the timetable, an average of three from S3-S6.

* 19 schools have restricted course choice.

* 18 schools are spending less on equipment.

* Basic staffing complements are below national guidelines in 13 schools, rising to 21 if deprivation and youth strategy allowances are discounted.

* 13 schools give less management time to promoted staff from principal teachers upwards.

* 11 schools have reduced support staff hours.

In Glasgow meanwhile teachers have been urged to "get their heads out of the sand" to fight education cuts that are expected to total Pounds 19 million next year, 6 per cent of the budget. May Ferries, the Educational Institute of Scotland's national president, said teachers had to be prepared to strike to protect their jobs.

The union claims councillors plan to cut up to 500 posts.

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