Training budgets slashed
Budgets for continuing professional development are being cut across Scotland, even though the country's biggest teaching union says they are essential for Curriculum for Excellence to work.
A survey by The TESS of all 32 local authorities shows that some CPD budgets have been slashed from previous levels. But authorities insist that cheaper, largely in-house training is often more effective than what went before.
A total of 29 local authorities provided figures for CPD budgets from 2008-09 to 2010-11. Over those three years, budgets had decreased in 20 authorities, stayed the same in five - a slight decrease in real terms - and risen in only four.
The biggest proportional reduction was in Clackmannanshire - a 56 per cent drop from pound;81,161 to pound;36,080. But there were steep declines also in Dumfries and Galloway (52 per cent), West Dunbartonshire (43 per cent), East Lothian (35 per cent) and Dundee (28 per cent).
A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland said CPD had always been a "soft option" in a time of cuts, but this time the situation was particularly serious because "Curriculum for Excellence can't be delivered without high-quality professional development".
The union "broadly supported" a general move away from one-off sessions with high-profile gurus, which could be a drain on budgets, but he insisted the most swingeing cuts would make it impossible to maintain quality.
Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, believes the cuts could not have been more badly- timed and CfE, which he described as the biggest change to Scottish education in at least a generation, could be delayed as a result.
National CPD co-ordinator Margaret Alcorn said the figures confirmed anecdotal evidence her team had been picking up. She emphasised that there was "robust and compelling evidence" at home and abroad that "the competence and confidence of teachers is the key factor in successful curriculum change".
School Leaders Scotland general secretary Ken Cunningham was similarly concerned. He said leadership CPD was particularly crucial in these testing economic times.
But he cautioned against singling out for criticism those authorities enforcing the largest decreases, as commitment to CPD had varied widely around the country for some time and some budgets were falling from a high starting point.
While Dundee experienced a large fall, its CPD budget is still higher than that of Scotland's biggest authority, Glasgow, and far exceeds the one in similarly-sized Aberdeen.
Only Highland, Inverclyde, South Ayrshire and East Ayrshire have at this point increased their budgets by significant amounts since 2008-09, although a breakdown by East Ayrshire showed that the sum going to schools was falling as growing amounts went to centrally-controlled pots.