What price do pupils pay with staff cuts?

24th April 2009 at 01:00

It must be one of the hardest things for a headteacher to do, cutting staff. Frustrating for the assistant head who is trying to create a timetable, extremely upsetting for a faculty head who cannot promise to run certain courses, and horrible for the staff who are transferred to different schools or asked to teach subjects they might be qualified to teach but in which they have no expertise.

The real losers are the pupils.

It seems to be a numbers game, a lottery, depending on predictions of how many pupils there will be next year. Their ages, their needs and their aspirations don't seem to matter - except they do. How many fifth-year pupils can't take their preferred subjects because of timetabling? And inclusion only works if the school has small enough classes to allow the teacher to cope with children struggling in mainstream.

But there is a huge amount of cash in education, so where does it all go? How much for electricity? What is spent on broken windows, postage costs, phone bills? How do we justify photocopying costs - do we really need 15-page booklets for a Standard grade Foundation level exam?

And what price CPD nowadays - is it value for money? Does anyone ever ask the teachers if it is worth the cost? Are cuts ever made in staff outwith the school? How much are all the flashy leaflets on A Curriculum for Excellence?

How much easier just to axe a teacher, or classroom support staff. It is quite often hidden by natural wastage, retirements and winding down.

Pupils are the centre of a school, but the teachers are vital to their success. Cut staff and you hack away at the whole school ethos. Teachers are too stretched and under too much stress, thus absentee rates grow. The range of subjects at Higher and Advanced Higher dwindle, and the kudos of the school slips.

We all have pupils who are unmotivated, lazy and disruptive, ruining any class they are in. Currently, schools can't offer them a relevant curriculum, so these kids need extra teachers and small discrete sections if they are to cope.

A good use of spare staff?

Penny Ward is a secondary teacher.

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