Teachers in Glasgow braced for 'challenging' years of fresh cuts

9th April 2010 at 01:00
Anything not frontline or statutory is `up for grabs' union warns, as city's head of education sets out belt-tightening measures

Glasgow teachers are bracing themselves for fresh cuts across services after the city's head of education circulated a budget update warning that "the next few years will be particularly challenging for us all".

Maureen McKenna said the council would have to continue to deliver its statutory services within a "reducing workforce of support staff, both centrally and within establishments".

She told The TESS that a number of pupil support assistants and school clerical staff had taken advantage of the council's early retirement scheme. Support services would have to reviewed in the wake of their departure, she said, as schools across the city had been unevenly affected.

"We need to deliver models of support which provide the maximum flexibility to heads of establishment based on a fair and equitable allocation," she said.

By the end of June, 140 teachers are expected to have left under a separate council-led early retirement package for those aged over 55. Some will be replaced, but not all.

Ms McKenna also said she wanted to reduce, if not abolish, the council's permanent supply pool by "naming" or attaching supply teachers to an individual school. This would stabilise the staffing situation and should eventually release vacancies for new teachers, she said.

Of the 180 staff employed at the education directorate, some 17 per cent - or 30 - have taken early retirement, resulting in savings of more than pound;1 million, she added.

However, the education budget was overspent by pound;1.5 million - 0.3 per cent of the total - and that overspend will be carried forward into the 2010-11 financial year. Transport and energy costs, together with high-tariff placements outwith Glasgow of children with additional support for learning needs and a reduced ASL income from other local authorities have been blamed for the overspend.

Although teachers are recognised as having a better attendance record than other council employees - their absence rate for October to December 2009 was 5.6 per cent compared with 6.3 per cent for all council employees - Ms McKenna is seeking improvement in this area too.

"It is estimated that the cost of absence to education services is currently running in excess of pound;10 million per annum . We all know and understand the impact of poor attendance on the continuity of children's learning," she added.

Hugh Donnelly, Glasgow local area secretary for the Educational Institute of Scotland, warned that anything deemed "not frontline and statutory" was now "up for grabs". He cited plans to disband the cluster support for learning service, teaching of English as an additional language, and cuts to the educational psychologists' service.

"Many of these support for learning teachers have undertaken educational psychological assessments previously done by educational psychologists and there has been no indication of how these services will be absorbed into the mainstream," said Mr Donnelly.

"At the same time, parents are being encouraged to approach councils and seek entitlements under the Additional Support for Learning Act. Even though ASL workers are not deemed to be statutory, the entitlement is statutory, but it's not clear who is going to deliver it," he added.

A spokesman for Unison, which represents pupil support assistants and school clerical staff, said that its members were under threat in other authorities as well as Glasgow - notably Dumfries and Galloway, Highland, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire.

"At this stage our information is not comprehensive, as many councils are currently compiling school budgets. We have reports of reductions in temporary contracts, cuts in learning support, increases in class sizes and job cuts of both teachers and support staff, but most places lack detail," he said.

"What is clear, however, is that cuts of this magnitude will not be made without damaging support for children's education. The impact is potentially greatest for pupils who need learning support in mainstream schools, but will impact on many, if not most, kids."

elizabeth.buie@tes.co.uk.

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