Councils ‘cannot meet requirements’ in education

Written by Tom Freeman on 29 October 2014 in News

Cuts in local budgets damaging education, Committee hears

Education spending is being squeezed to the point where local authorities cannot meet minimum expectations and requirements, according to councils and teacher’s groups.

In submissions to work on the draft budget by the Education and Culture Committee, teachers’ union EIS said: “There is a very real risk of failure to meet statutory provisons. On a weekly basis, in parts of Scotland, pupils could be sent home through a lack of availability of supply teachers.”

Only teachers’ goodwill and commitment to pupils’ learning was currently preventing such damage to the education of children, the union said, adding declining budgets have also led to many local authorities reducing the number of qualified nursery teachers.

A recent school education report by Audit Scotland showed councils spent £4.8bn on education services last year, of which £3.8bn was spent on primary and secondary education, mostly on staff and school estate. Highland council have announced £64m worth of cuts is likely to lead to shortening of school hours and teachers being laid off. 

South Lanarkshire council reported:  “It is becoming increasingly difficult to continue to achieve local and national priorities,” while Education Services at Dumfries and Galloway Council said there were no additional funds available to deliver Getting it Right for Every Child commitments like 52-week provision of education services per year.

The council added: “Investment levels only allow a ‘fix on failure approach’, and increasing amount of backlog maintenance put risks of operational failure. Funding levels do not cover all areas authorities are required to deliver – early years, language provision, sustainability, curriculum for excellence and sportscotland et al.”

Unison’s submission said government must address local taxation urgently. “The only solution is more money. The low hanging fruit of efficiency savings have been picked. It is clear that the salami slicing is over and serious cuts are on their way,” it said.

Eileen Prior of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said the increasing challenges in Scottish schools were the “worst kept secret in Scottish education”, and that parent engagement was inadequate. “For parents the most meaningful engagement is at school level, but the reality is that budget process at local authority and school level are often inaccessible or opaque. The Parental Involvement legislation entitles parents to be engaged, but the quality of communication from schools is key in making this a valid process,” she said.

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