Teacher numbers hit

5th June 2009 at 01:00
Scottish Government's claims on education funding face increasing challenge, surveys reveal

Local authorities are planning to cut teacher numbers, support staff jobs and funding for continuing professional development, a survey by the Educational Institute of Scotland has revealed.

The findings have prompted the general secretary of the EIS, Ronnie Smith, to challenge the Scottish Government to "square the circle" between its claims of increased funding for education and the reality facing schools of their budgets and staffing levels being squeezed.

His concerns were reinforced by separate figures, obtained under a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Labour Party, which showed a pound;61 million squeeze on education budgets in the 22 authorities which responded. One of the worst affected is Glasgow, which has seen a cut of pound;8.7m; East Ayrshire is not far behind, with a reduction of pound;4.2m. Labour claims its survey shows that pound;16m is being cut from teaching staff costs in councils across Scotland.

The EIS survey, also based on an FoI request, shows 15 of the 28 authorities who responded plan to employ 315 fewer teachers next session.

Some of the biggest cuts are in some of the smallest authorities: North Ayrshire says it expects to have 65 fewer teachers, Renfrewshire 47, Inverclyde 30, Midlothian 24, East Dunbartonshire 26 and Argyll and Bute 21.

Seven councils also have plans to reduce their support staff complement by 211 posts.

CPD funding shows more variation. North Lanarkshire is planning a cut of pound;207,000; Aberdeenshire pound;200,000; North Ayrshire pound;181,017; Dumfries and Galloway pound;157,000; East Lothian pound;8,000; Stirling pound;7,000; Moray pound;9,000; Orkney Islands pound;30,000; and Midlothian pound;82,000.

But increases in CPD funding are planned in East Dunbartonshire, Argyll and Bute, Shetland, Renfrewshire, and East Renfrewshire.

Mr Smith described the CPD cuts as "particularly telling" when teachers require support to implement A Curriculum for Excellence: "The combination of reducing teacher numbers, support staff numbers and CPD is the most inappropriate backcloth imaginable to try and implement major change."

Rhona Brankin, Labour's education spokeswoman, said: "This is evidence that the concordat signed between government and councils is in tatters and is leading directly to cuts in teacher numbers. Far from making efficiencies, councils are making straightforward cuts to their education budgets and teachers, yet again, are going to be hit hardest."

The Scottish Government is facing growing pressure from unions on the maintenance of teacher numbers after the most recent teacher census showed a drop in nearly 1,000 posts.

EIS delegates are this week debating motions on the need for adequate funding and CPD to deliver ACfE at their annual general meeting in Perth. One motion, from the Glasgow local association, calls for a complete moratorium on development work associated with ACfE until its delivery is "financially viable"; another, from Moray, calls for a boycott of CfE developments unless an agreed timetable is confirmed by December for the phased reduction of all class sizes.

Members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association voted for strike action unless clearer guidance and better resourcing were made available for ACfE at their annual conference last month.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said ministers were providing councils with record levels of funding: pound;23 billion for 2008-10. Education budget estimates provided by local authorities showed an annual increase of 5.5 per cent across Scotland in 2008-09 compared with the previous year.

She said the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities had acknowledged that there was money in the local government settlement to maintain teacher numbers at 2007-08 levels.

CPD funds had not been ring fenced from 2008-09, the spokesperson said, but added: "The Scottiish Government is fully committed to ensuring that teachers have the necessary skills, training and knowledge to implement ACfE, and therefore achieve better outcomes for every child and young person."

A Cosla spokesman said: "The overriding objective of the concordat was to support and encourage authorities to deliver local solutions to local priorities. This means councils taking difficult decisions that should not be second-guessed by armchair critics who don't have the responsibility of delivering services across the whole of a council.

"The FoI returns show local authorities adapting their budgets to better meet local priorities. We need to remember that increasing resources does not necessarily lead to better outcomes for children, their parents and other beneficiaries of education services."

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