Menu
Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe

Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine

Subscribe

Subscribe to Holyrood
COSLA challenges legality of Government stance on teacher numbers

COSLA challenges legality of Government stance on teacher numbers

The Scottish Government has not behaved legally in trying to prevent local authorities from cutting teachers, according to Scottish councils umbrella body COSLA.

Councils are currently formalising their budgets amid reductions in local spending, and want to cut around 120 teaching posts across Scotland in the next year.

Two weeks ago Finance Secretary John Swinney blamed councils for government targets on pupil teacher ratios being missed.

He announced a new deal which would see councils receive £51m in funding if they maintain existing teachers numbers, but now at least 19 leaders of Scottish local authorities have said they will not sign up to it.

COSLA said the deal has been imposed, "breaching the ordinary rules of negotiations," and called on Swinney to "get back round the table with us and negotiate a deal".

Chief executive Rory Mair said: "We have had expert legal advice which we will now go to the government with and say look, you've got to understand, if you carry on down this route, we will have to pursue some of these legal questions with all the means open to us."

Although Mair said the option would be "way down the road", he did not rule out the unprecedented move of some councils taking legal action against the Government.

COSLA has produced evidence which suggests variation in teacher numbers over the last decade has not impacted on overall attainment or inequality.

Other measures would be better for benchmarking education, it argues.

Colin Mair of the Improvement Service, who produced the report said: "Do you think the Scottish Government would accept Barnett consequentials coming with detailed specifications of what you can do with them? Quite rightly they would not. It would be deemed to be antidemocratic and all the rest of it."

"It's not just teachers that are suffering from reductions in numbers of people around and an increase in their workload, the whole of the local government workforce is in that position"

COSLA suggests the Government has acted improperly in four areas:

- It should not have changed council budget advice already issued without consultation.

- It should not have imposed terms which were still under negotiation.

- It did not display "reasonableness" in using teacher numbers as a measure of success, in the method of counting teachers (a one-day census every September), or in a lack of parity between councils, some of which have falling rolls.

- It is not in the Government's power to use the local government finance order to "coerce councils into doing something they don't want to do."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman insisted it had acted lawfully.

Rory Mair said councils were looking to make sure "pain is properly distributed" between services, and that staff like social care workers weren't overly impacted by a focus on teachers.

"What leaders are saying is it's not just teachers that are suffering from reductions in numbers of people around and an increase in their workload, the whole of the local government workforce is in that position," he said.

He added: "We have put up with the council tax freeze, we have got legislation which stops us rationalising our school estate the way we would want to rationalise it, now we're getting legislation saying we can't touch teachers either. How the heck do we run a system operating on that basis?"

There are just under 51,000 nursery, primary and secondary teachers in Scotland, the lowest figure since 2003, while class sizes have increased in most cases.

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Tags

Education

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Subscribe

Popular reads
Back to top