The current mantra from everyone - from Government down - is that we need to "do more with less". That is a big enough task if it means doing the same as before, but more efficiently. The problem, however, is that education is facing unprecedented challenges - from changes in curricular and classroom practice through Curriculum for Excellence, to a shake-up of inspection and support through the merger of HMIE and Learning and Teaching Scotland. All this is taking place against the backdrop, unveiled by Finance Secretary John Swinney this week, of a 6.8 per cent cut to the central education budget, a 2.4 per cent reduction in local government budgets and a public sector pay freeze.
Many teachers already face the loss of support assistants, outside specialists and quality improvement officers. At the same time, they are being asked to change their teaching methodologies, collaborate more closely with other departments and prepare for new qualifications. All this requires effective continuing professional development and support, whether it be focused on subject knowledge or methodology.
Yet, an extensive survey of council CPD budgets by The TESS (p1 and 4) reveals an almost universal pattern of cuts, which will be reinforced by Mr Swinney's reductions in the budgets of key quangos including LTS, the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the Scottish Funding Council. His promise that this will be "without detriment" to student places or implementation of CfE could come back to haunt him. The reality is that if teachers are expected to "do more with less", they will need to be motivated to do so. A pay freeze, allied to the potential loss of cherished working conditions in the renegotiated teachers' agreement, may not encourage teachers to go that extra mile.
Neil Munro, editor of the year (business and professional magazine).