Editor's comment

27th March 2009 at 00:00

The adage of "lies, damned lies and statistics" has been trotted out so often that it has become a cliche par excellence. But that does not alter the fundamental truth that statistics are constantly interpreted to say what different people want them to say. This week, it is the number of teachers employed by councils: they had dropped by almost 1,000 from 2007-08, Government figures showed. Ah, but - teacher-pupil ratios were at a historic low, and anyway, the drop in teacher numbers was mainly the fault of four councils, said Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary. That other well-known saying, "passing the buck", springs to mind.

For its part, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities suggested the teacher number statistics were not "robust". It was much happier with the official statistics on school expenditure, published a day later - as was Ms Hyslop. Record amounts of money were being spent on the education of pupils as schools prepared for A Curriculum for Excellence, said the Government. The figures showed that local government puts its money where its mouth is, trumpeted Cosla.

The trouble is, teachers have no sense of a feel-good factor in school spending. They see staffing numbers being cut - or kept at a standstill, at best - just as they get ready to implement major curriculum reforms. And they see post-probationers scrabbling around for work, while councils choose not to replace retirees.

Scottish teachers might not have been able to put a figure on job cuts, but they could tell they were happening. And they continue to happen. Just ask the outdoor learning staff at West Dunbartonshire, facing job losses if the plug is pulled on their work with disaffected youngsters (p1). Just ask the music instructors in Renfrewshire, facing cuts in staffing and tutorial time with pupils (p2).

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