Key reforms under threat

24th November 2006 at 00:00
Staff development initiatives face a major setback as councils are hit by budget cuts.

The scottish Executive's major drive to invest in teachers' skills is facing a growing crisis because of the pressures piling on council spending.

Headteachers' leaders in primary and secondary schools are reporting slashed budgets for continuing professional development, despite specific executive funding which is now pound;13.5 million a year and has totalled pound;60.5 million since 2002.

This will re-ignite the debate about government cash for key initiatives in schools passing through education authorities and appearing to go astray.

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, acknowledged that general financial constraints were forcing councils to cut spending where it did not directly affect front-line services.

Authorities which had large staff development budgets would reduce their contribution if there was money from the executive to take its place, he said. "You've always got to make difficult choices."

One authority has enraged its heads by insisting that staff members who wish to attend any in-service course in another part of Scotland must have approval from a senior manager in the education department.

Another straw in the wind, according to CPD co-ordinators, is that some candidates planning to take the Scottish Qualification for Headship have been told their employer cannot afford the fees.

Charles McAteer, president of the Headteachers' Association of Scotland, said it was clear council budgets were under strain and that continuing professional development was one of the casualties.

Bill Milligan, professional advice convener for the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, said it was the view of many of his members in primary schools that spending on CPD was now inadequate.

One secondary head, who did not wish to be named, said it would be impossible to deliver many of the executive's key reforms without investing in the skills of teachers. His CPD budget had been pound;32,000 last year and was Pounds 18,000 now. "It's a soft target," he said. "But it's a short-sighted saving and will not pay dividends in terms of delivering what the executive expects."

Margaret Alcorn, national CPD co-ordinator, confirmed that reports from her colleagues round the country pointed to the fact that "money allocated to CPD is not being spent on CPD".

The pressures on continuing professional development could not have come at a worse time as the executive prepares to launch its "teachers for excellence" initiative, which is an implicit acknowledgement that support for staff development is an essential component of its curriculum reforms.

CPD: latest developments, pages 8, 14, 16, 22

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