Parents call for managers to sort out city classrooms

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PARENTS have launched a campaign calling for cuts to be made to bureaucracy instead of schools, and for managers to be sent into classrooms.

The "Kids Not Suits" campaign criticises the city council for failing to tackle the education department's massive back-room costs at a time when school budgets are being cut and class sizes in many schools are rising.

The anonymous online campaign, which has won the backing of opposition groups on the council, was launched by a parent whose child will be starting in primary one at Roseburn Primary School in a fortnight.

The city council cut one class and one teacher post from Roseburn in May, meaning the primary one class that his son enters will now have 30 pupils instead of the 23 that it was expected to have.

He is now hoping to build support for his campaign from parents from across the city ahead of a full council meeting on August 19, where he intends to call for management with teaching qualifications to be put into the classroom to boost teacher numbers and reduce class sizes.

However, council chiefs have hit back at the campaign.

They said that only two per cent of the annual education budget is spent on management, while 93 per cent goes directly on schools and nurseries.

The parent - who does not want to be named because of fears about the impact on his job - said: "This is about the size of bureaucracy at children and families and the fact that class sizes are massive, much bigger than other council areas and bigger than the guidelines.

"I want to help (education leader] Marilyne MacLaren with her dream of slimming down children and families and getting more teachers into schools.

"There is far too much duplication of back-room roles in children and families and I don't think the department manages its assets very well."

He added: "The stats are not good on class sizes and it is drifting the wrong way - they're getting worse. They are happy to cut school budgets but not cut the number of bureaucrats at Waverley Court."

On August 18, 3470 children will start primary one in Edinburgh's schools and it is estimated that 2000 of them - that's 58 per cent - will be in class sizes of more than 25.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education spokesman for the Labour group on the council, said: "I would always agree that front-line services should be protected first and foremost and we need to look imaginatively at how we get more teachers into schools and cut bureaucracy."

The council had been working towards class size caps of 25 under national guidance, but the Scottish Government did not introduce legislation for the cap in time for this year, meaning that if it enforced it the council could face a legal challenge from parents whose children missed out. Instead, it had to enforce a cap of 30 for the approaching school year.

A city council spokesman said that only two per cent of the annual 288 million schools and community education budget - which excludes social work - is spent on management costs, and that 29m of efficiency savings had been found since 2007/08.

He added: "A huge majority of our resources go directly to schools, with a relatively small amount funding back office services."