Call for clarity on education spending
The Government and councils should be more transparent about their spending on education, a Holyrood committee has warned.
After only two councils made submissions to their investigation into spending on schools, the Education and Culture Committee has published a report which calls for more information from government and local authorities on how educational standards can be maintained when budgets are being stretched.
Committee convener Stewart Maxwell said: “There is no doubt challenges lie ahead, but we expect local authorities to make every effort to ensure education spending is protected as far as is possible. Local authorities should also reconsider the possible benefits that could be gained from sharing their services.
“In general, there is a need for strong leadership at both local and national level to consider options for change openly, and in a challenging atmosphere.”
Council budgets across the country are being drafted now, with many local authorities considering cuts to frontline services such as staff losses and a shortening of the school day. The report says the fact only two of Scotland 32 councils responded to their call for evidence was not satisfactory. “It is regrettable our ability to undertake this work was hampered by the extremely low response rate by local authorities to our call for written evidence,” it says, promising the committee will now pursue councils directly for more information as it looks at how budgets affect attainment.
The report also advises the Scottish Government to do more to support councils to look for ways to deliver existing policies, and to examine the potential for sharing services between local authorities. The public should also be consulted more, it suggests.
This has been the first time the Education Committee has looked at school spend as part of scrutiny of Scotland’s draft budget. It now begins a year of work looking at the gap in attainment.