Fury as cash-strapped city plans Swedish schools study

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EDUCATION bosses have been accused of "exploiting" taxpayers' money by planning a trip to Sweden to learn "possible lessons" from its schooling system.

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren and director of education Gillian Tee are asking councillors to approve 1,100 of funding from the tight departmental budget to send them to Stockholm – at a time when they are making cuts to services across the children and families remit.

It comes after plans were announced to cut the number of teachers working in council-run nurseries in a bid to save 113,000.

It also follows news that 20 million of secret education cuts are being lined up.

Among the options being examined are making individual schools "specialists" in some subjects and teaching Higher and Advanced Higher classes together.

Ms Tee cites early years and secondary provision as two areas she is keen to learn more about from the Swedish model. However, plans to spend money on researching the world-renowned benefits of the country's education system have not gone down well amongst some school campaigners, who believe it is wasting funds at a time when education across all sectors is being cut in the Capital.

Elaine Ritch, chair of the parent council at Leith Primary School, said: "It's quite unbelievable that they would consider spending that money on this.

"Sweden has got a good reputation for best practice, especially in early years, but surely there's another way to look at the model that's not going to be quite so expensive, like doing it online.

"It's unnecessary for them to go there and they're exploiting funds.

"It's another example of them cutting the education budget and using this as an excuse to take a trip to Sweden."

Labour's education spokesman, Councillor Ricky Henderson, has also condemned the move.

He said: "At a time when the council is implementing cuts and closures, it is completely inappropriate to be heading off on foreign trips, particularly in this instance, while the Lib Dem/SNP council are actively planning to reduce the quality of early years services in our nursery schools."

The full cost of the trip for Ms Tee and Cllr MacLaren is 3,300, but 2,200 is being paid by Learning and Teaching Scotland.

Members of the education committee will be asked to approve the remaining funds at a meeting next Tuesday.

Ms Tee said a report would be presented to the committee in future regarding the "possible lessons" to be drawn from the Swedish system.

A city council spokeswoman said: "The majority of this trip is being funded by Learning and Teaching Scotland and the council considers the benefits of any overseas trips carefully.

"This high-profile trip is being organised by Children in Scotland and will include their director along with an MSP.

"It will be beneficial to the council when looking at our own early years and secondary school education strategies."