There's no stopping these destructive cuts

7th November 2014 at 00:00

The global financial crisis of 2008 was a volcanic explosion, ripping apart huge banking institutions and engulfing previously buoyant economies.

The impact was not immediate everywhere. Although Scottish public services have made all manner of cuts and "efficiency savings" in recent times, education has been afforded a certain level of protection.

Yet the aftermath of 2008 is like a slow, creeping lava: you see it coming, you can keep out of its way for so long, but eventually it consumes everything.

Earlier this year we reported predictions by education directors' body ADES that councils would have to think the previously unthinkable ("If the cuts keep coming, we'll `run out of salami' ", 28 March). Now it's happening.

It has emerged that Highland, for example, is proposing to shorten the school day in a bid to cut costs. We understand that many other councils are considering similar moves.

Additional support needs services are coming under pressure, too (" `We are creating a lost generation of ASN' ", 31 October). In this harsh financial climate, people are discovering that, for all the fine words about inclusion, certain services remain less essential than others.

We will learn in the coming years just how sacrosanct teacher numbers are. Support staff, quality improvement officers and educational psychologists have been fair game for cuts, but teachers have so far been protected.

But local authorities' body Cosla is known to have objections to this. In a submission to the Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee last week, Cosla stated: "While local government has successfully delivered on this commitment in recent years, it continues to present a challenge to local education delivery and council budgeting more broadly."

Pretty soon, nothing may be off limits.

And more bad news emerged this week when the committee took evidence about the impact on education of the Scottish government's 2015-16 draft budget. The EIS teaching union was among those spelling out the practical consequences of deeper and deeper cuts.

Earlier that day the EIS had released the findings of a survey on bureaucracy. A national working group and subsequent report designed to tackle the problem had not had the desired impact on many schools, it found.

Some talked of senior management and council bosses having "roundly ignored" or "dismissed" the report. One respondent highlighted a particularly toxic effect in smaller schools: budget cuts meant fewer staff to share the load and fewer families to raise money for shrinking school coffers - meaning that bureaucracy had an increasingly deleterious effect.

So, just as teacher numbers are called into question, more evidence appears of teachers disappearing behind tottering towers of paperwork. At what point does the ratio of teachers to bureaucracy cease to be manageable? We may be about to find out.

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