Job cuts on the horizon

28th March 2008 at 00:00
'Toxic blend' of falling rolls and staff reductions hits class sizes and subject choices

Teachers' jobs are at risk in some authorities because of a combination of falling rolls and tight staffing allocations for schools, according to Scotland's main teaching union.

Compulsory redundancies have not been ruled out in Aberdeen and Renfrewshire, claims Ken Wimbor, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland. Other councils, including Highland, Scottish Borders and Glasgow, are also facing cutbacks in the wake of budget restrictions.

Larger class sizes, a reduction in the number of subject options available and fewer jobs for new entrants are all being predicted.

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, warned that some authorities would find it difficult to take on all the probationers they wanted next year.

Although the Scottish Government's class size targets demanded higher teacher recruitment, it was not certain that councils could afford to employ them, he said.

Privately, education sources acknowledge that some schools have enjoyed a more generous staffing formula than council agreements dictate. However, authorities are now imposing staffing allowances more rigidly and, in some cases, calling on senior management to carry out more teaching duties.

Kirsty Devaney, EIS president, told the annual general meeting of Renfrewshire local association last week that the authority's cut of pound;4.5 million from the education budget was "a threat to children's education and teaching jobs". The council is looking for between 50 and 100 teaching jobs to go.

Glasgow has declared 120 secondary teachers' jobs surplus to requirements - an average of four teachers per school.

Willie Hart, Glasgow EIS secretary, said the "toxic blend" of falling rolls and tighter staffing formulae would mean compulsory transfers. He predicted a major impact on class sizes and subject availability.

There was a similar message from Renfrewshire where Ian McCrone, local EIS secretary, warned: "There seems to be a real risk that Advanced Highers will disappear in all but English and maths."

Families who could afford it were trying to find places in private education for pupils who needed Advanced Highers to study medicine or veterinary science at university, he claimed. Others who could not afford that route were having to "narrow their ambitions".

Associations representing teachers, headteachers and education directors all point to significant variations across the country. "Two per cent efficiency savings appear common, but the way they are delivered depends on local decisions at council level," said Mr Wimbor.

At Aberdeen City Council, where officials have to reduce the total budget for all services by pound;27 million, the Accounts Commission has stepped in and will hold a public hearing into concerns over the running of the authority - only the second time this has happened in Scotland.

In Renfrewshire, secondary teachers claim some pupils have had to be re-interviewed, as their first subject option choices are unavailable.

Mr McCrone added that, although Renfrewshire, an SNP-led council, was trying to meet the Scottish Government's target of class-size reductions in P1-3, there was likely to be a knock-on effect of larger P4-7 classes, as well as more composite classes.

Renfrewshire MSP Hugh Henry, the former education minister, said he had been contacted by pupils, concerned that study support had been withdrawn by the council.

A spokesman for Renfrewshire Council said: "The savings from the education budget total pound;4.5million for financial year 2008-09 out of overall council savings of pound;8.6million. The proportion of savings in education was less than for the vast majority of other council departments. It is not the case that Advanced Highers are all but disappearing. Schools are currently reviewing the provision made for Advanced Higher. Pupils will be able to access a menu of AH courses in their own schools or through school consortium arrangements.

"The council anticipates that the reduction of the maximum class size in P2 to 25 pupils may increase the number of composite classes."

In Aberdeen, Ken Dinwoodie, chairman of Harlaw Academy Parent Council, believed seven or eight teaching positions could go at Harlaw, even more at other schools. He fears the budgetary strain could see S1-2 English and maths class sizes rise, learning support cut back, a reduction in foreign languages offered in some schools, and senior pupils leaving school earlier in the day.

An Aberdeen City Council spokesman said: "We are trying to develop a framework within which headteachers can have the flexibility to make necessary savings. It may mean some reductions in staffing but savings made in other areas too."

Leader, page 22.

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