'Undesirable' cuts may end in school closures

Class sizes could also be affected as Aberdeen council looks to make savings over next five years

Pushing class sizes to the maximum and closing two secondary schools are among the most likely options for finding pound;28.3 million of cuts in Aberdeen's education, culture and sport budget.

But Aberdeen City Council officials admit they are taking a risk by factoring in alterations to teachers' terms and conditions, which would require changes to national agreements.

The savings for the next five years, none of which has yet been agreed, would be on top of pound;8.1m of cuts already approved for education, culture and sport.

The council draws a distinction between "efficiency", "stopreduce options" and "transformation" options. Efficiency savings include increasing P1 class sizes from 18 to 25 (saving pound;440,000) and raising P2-3 classes to 33 (pound;120,000).

Proposals in the stopreduce category are described as "undesirable" by the council. It recommends closing two secondaries and five primaries to save a little over pound;3m and a proposal to "stop Curriculum for Excellence training in modern foreign languages" (pound;100,000).

The "transformation options" will, the council says, "focus financial resources on actual service delivery, while increasing curriculum choice and encouraging independence and lifelong learning".

They include a "redesign of professional staffing" in primaries and secondaries, which it is hoped could save pound;2.15m, although a council report published last week does not go into detail.

The report includes a number of other potential options for savings, some of them quite radical, which it does not recommend councillors should back: extending non-subject-specific teaching until the end of S2; increasing teaching time to match pupil time; having 30 pupils in all S1-2 classes; the withdrawal of music tuition; the closure of all community libraries; and an end to pre-school education.

Council chief executive Valerie Watts, who has ruled out compulsory redundancies in the coming year, said the city council was "in a good place right now", as its approach of planning several years ahead had been paying off in the past year. Corporate governance director Stewart Carruth stressed that only pound;3.6m of savings were needed across the council in 2012-13, which was "a fantastic position to be in".

Aberdeen EIS secretary Grant Bruce is reserving comment until after he meets the education, culture and sport directorate on 23 November.

The proposed cuts, part of pound;35.7m of overall savings the council will seek to make over five years, will go to a meeting of the finance and resources committee on 6 December.

They are in addition to pound;71.5m of overall savings approved in February which have already been built into council budgets for the next five years. These initial cuts affected pupil support assistants - provision was reduced by a third - as well as school administrators, supply teachers, nursery nurses and music tuition.


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