Dumfries book van at risk

6th September 1996 at 01:00
Dumfries and Galloway is ready to axe its school library service, mainly used by primaries, as councillors were warned this week of a further 8-10 per cent cut in the education budget for 1997-98. Core staffing in schools is under threat.

Ken Macleod, director of education, in a review of the education service, said the anticipated reduction on top of the Pounds 2.1 million cuts this year, "will make a nonsense of the tactic adopted for 1996-97 which saw the voluntary severance of 55 teachers".

Mr Macleod said the teachers' package was intended to buy time to identify other efficiencies but it was impossible to find easy targets. "Some school closures may be necessary, even desirable, but these will not generate anything approaching the level of savings required," he advised the education committee on Tuesday.

He believed it was "crucial" for parents, teachers and councillors to understand the broad picture and the Government's legislation, "which is hostile to a planned education service but demands a value for money regime which is only possible through a planned service approach". It would be difficult to persuade people to look beyond short-term or local interest.

Under budgetary pressure, the committee agreed to review the Pounds 109, 000 spending on the school library service from next April. Leslie Jardine, director of community resources, warned that the move would have a particularly serious impact in rural areas and lead to the first compulsory redundancies in the new authority.

Schools will now be asked whether they want to pick upthe service - basically a touringvan and curriculum back-up - and pay for it through their own budgets.

In his business plan for the education service, Mr Macleod highlighted the scope for closures in primary and secondary sectors. A review of primaries is now under way, looking at geographical position, condition of buildings, capacities of neighbouring schools, future rolls, and the viability of "link" arrangements.

In the secondary sector, the council is carrying out a "thorough" review, all the more urgent, according to Mr Macleod, because of the imminence of Higher Still. But most of the 16 secondaries are well under capacity. There are over 14,000 places and only 9,600 pupils.

While councillors were advised on the need for further cuts, the director forecast substantial spending on information technology, now viewed as an essential means for delivering the curriculum.

The council will also be required to fall into line with the rest of Scottish local authorities by introducing compulsory foreign language teaching to S4. So far, Dumfries and Galloway has operated a voluntary policy, one that has led to a "disappointingly low" uptake in S3.

The education committee was also told the council has an Pounds 18 million backlog in school maintenance.

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