Protests over budget cuts

1st January 2010 at 00:00
Union calls for public march in campaign against job losses and scarcity of teaching resources

Scotland's largest teaching union is calling on teachers, parents and pupils to take to the streets in its biggest march since the teachers' strikes in the 1980s.

The protest over cuts to education budgets is scheduled to take place in Glasgow in March and marks the start of an Educational Institute of Scotland campaign, "Why must our children pay?"

"We now have almost 2,500 fewer teachers in our classrooms than was the case just two years ago," said general secretary of the EIS Ronnie Smith. "Support staff numbers are also falling."

Textbooks, paper, pencils and photocopying materials are also becoming scarce in schools, it claims.

The union said it hoped the campaign would send a "strong message" to all levels of government that children must not pay for the "cavalier behaviour" that led to the recession.

The launch of the campaign came as the union warned that the dramatic reduction in the number of teacher-training places in 2010 year could damage Scotland's induction scheme for teachers.

Anticipated job losses in universities would dilute the ability of teacher education institutions to support new entrants and place a greater burden on schools to carry out training and mentoring, claimed the EIS.

But it has emerged that teacher education institutions (TEIs) are in talks with the Scottish Government to find ways of mitigating the damage of cuts to student teacher places.

Financial support for the TEIs is one option they are exploring; using the surplus capacity in universities to deliver continuing professional development for teachers has also been mooted, said Jim Conroy, dean of education at Glasgow University.

He insisted that, whatever happened, Glasgow University would continue to support students at current levels, but conceded that the cuts were "extraordinarily severe" and "almost unprecedented".

Primary teacher education courses next session will bear the brunt of cuts to student teacher numbers, with a 70 per cent reduction in the one-year postgraduate course and a 40 per cent cut in the four-year B.Ed. Numbers entering the one-year secondary postgraduate course will fall by 12 per cent.

The cuts would lead to tutors and lecturers losing their jobs, putting classroom teachers under greater pressure to fill the void, Mr Smith predicted; the knock-on effect would be to remove them from their role of mentoring probationers on the teacher induction scheme.

"It's a domino effect we're concerned about," he said.

The Scottish Government had chosen the easy option by cutting student teacher numbers instead of stimulating demand for new teachers, he argued.

A spokesman for the General Teaching Council for Scotland predicted that the cuts would impact on the induction scheme's capacity to cope with the "inevitable" demand in the future for more teachers.

The Scottish Government confirmed it was working with universities "to minimise the impact of reduced intakes". It also argued that education spending had risen over the past two years, although a spokesman conceded difficult local and national decisions were on the horizon.

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