Photocopying is all that's left to talk about
Budget cuts are an emotive issue, so it's unsurprising that feelings ran high recently at the Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee evidence sessions on what the Scottish government's draft budget for 2015-16 will mean for schools ("The secretive world of school funding", 7 November).
The National Parent Forum of Scotland gave evidence but was disappointed that this valuable opportunity to discuss parents' experiences was sidetracked by arguments over whether schools have always expected textbooks to be shared between pupils.
The bigger picture is that parents are concerned about budget pressures having a negative impact on their children's education. Local authorities body Cosla has warned of fewer teachers and shorter school weeks as a result of the cuts. Pupils who need the most help may not receive it, as the numbers of classroom assistants and additional support for learning (ASL) auxiliaries are being reduced. None of this will help to increase attainment levels - a key measure of how well schools are using the money allocated to them. Evidence suggests that what does make the difference in terms of attainment is parental involvement, school leadership and targeting resources at those most in need, and we would welcome a discussion about this.
The Scottish government is raising expectations through its education policies, but can schools fulfil these ambitions in the current financial climate? Curriculum for Excellence needs proper resourcing or the individually tailored, interdisciplinary approach it aims to achieve could fail. The 1+2 languages policy is laudable but seems unrealistic when local authority teacher training budgets are being slashed.
Encouraging parental involvement in decision-making is welcome, but parents are operating in the dark about budgets and there is limited room for manoeuvre as the vast majority of spending is allocated to teacher salaries. So perhaps it is not surprising that we end up getting involved in petty debates over photocopying costs, as there is little else left to argue over. Radical solutions are needed, but this is for the government to propose, not parents.
Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland
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