COUNCILLORS in Borders are being asked to visit primary schools to see the effects of budget cutbacks for themselves. The invitation was agreed after a lengthy meeting on Tuesday night attended by 68 of the 72 members of the Association of Head Teachers in the Borders.
John Christie, the council's director of lifelong learning, agreed to go along to spell out the position to the primary heads. But, while they were satisfied with his clarifications, the meeting was unanimous in declaring the current cuts "unacceptable".
In an agreed statement Nancy Marshall, chair of Borders AHTS, said: "There was also a unanimous view that the education budget should not be required to pay back pound;3.9 million to the council reserves. It was felt the amount allocated to the education budget should be reviewed to enable education to be funded adequately."
The statement added pointedly that heads "would welcome councillors into their schools to see the effects of their decisions".
The council was forced to act after the education department overspent its budget by pound;2.8 million over two years, and schools overshot their delegated expenditure by a further pound;1.1 million.
Audit Scotland, the spending watchdog, is investigating. Once this is completed Jack McConnell, Education Minister, expects HMI to bring forward its scheduled inspection of the authority.
The council has been particularly heavily criticised for cutting back budgets for delegated school spending, cleaning and special needs. Mrs Marshall, head of Knowepark primary in Selkirk, said her budget for materials had been halved and primary schools were to lose 43 per cent on average of their expected funds this year.
The effects of the cleaning cuts, which means four cleans every five days, were very obvious, Mrs Marshall said. But the heads' association is recommending that staff should not become involved in cleaning.