Parents - cut to the chase

2nd October 2009 at 01:00

The scalpel of cuts, cuts and cuts is poised over all of us, so prepare to have blood on your hands. Headteacher, deputy, principal teacher, classroom teacher, parent, pupil, we're all caught up in this horror story. Inevitably, it will get worse.

There's no point in coming over all wounded and self-pitying, because we know that there is nothing personal in this sorry saga. Yet, when it comes down to it, whatever journey we are on, our destination seems just that bit more uncertain than it was hitherto.

It's impossible to be detached about our own or anyone else's dire financial circumstances. I'm not one of the Greek Chorus sermonising that we've had the land of milk and honey and now must face the seven years of famine of Biblical legend.

Some teachers may have been blessed with such rich bounties, but I'm not one of them. It has always been a struggle to make paltry amounts of per capita meet need. Keeping pace with inflation has never happened during the time I've been a budget holder. Per capita has always been disproportionate to the unrelenting demand to improve attainment and push up standards. Where, then, is the public outcry?

The atrophying of financial resources has been a slow drizzle effect. Colleagues have been lamenting for some time that they no longer have the means to buy class sets of new textbooks. They simply replace the worst of their ageing stock; soon, even that might be a luxury.

What now? In many local authorities, we have to face our pupils in the knowledge that the piggy bank is depleted. This is not media-stoked melodrama but reality. The auguries are dismal, to say the least.

Our education system has been failing for some time and is about to grind to a painful halt. Continuing professional development for teachers, already a feeble entity, is about to teeter over the precipice. Who brought us this tranche of unmitigated misery? The banks apparently are almost totally to blame for the current recession. We have to stand by and watch them dish out outrageous dollops of bonuses while wondering if we dare photocopy a class set of a vital document. That's if you are in a school where the headteacher hasn't disabled the photocopier. Meanwhile, in council buildings throughout Scotland, free catering at meetings continues and the body of bureaucrats swells.

Who will publicise the devastating effects of the belt-tightening to parents and the rest of society? As a profession, we don't do rebellion any more, either as individuals or as teaching unions. The gamekeepers and the poachers are cosier with each other now than at any time in the past. Faced with such truths, the unions trot out politically-correct platitudes about how we must work together.

What is such an approach achieving? As the budgets get smaller, the headlines should get bigger. We should be marching in the streets, not skulking about on the coat-tails of management.

Frontline services must be protected. The equipment and textbooks which schools need to educate their pupils should be prioritised above the peripheral matters which hijack too many resources. What does it take for a local authority to run an efficient education department? Why do so many local authorities receive damning HMIE reports? Parents really need to mobilise themselves and demand answers to some tough questions.

Marj Adams, teaches religious studies, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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