SNP pledges in doubt amid 'bleak' wave of cuts to school staff and education spending across Scotland

Union chief warns teachers will be pushed ‘over the edge’ by council cutbacks

Councils across Scotland are planning a “deep and damaging” wave of cuts to teaching posts and spending on schools that will leave flagship SNP policies in disarray, a leading teaching union has warned.

Officials from the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) warned of a “bleak” picture emerging throughout the nation as Glasgow City Council moved to cut 172 teaching posts.

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The union described it as a “crisis point” that will “push many staff over the edge”, coming at a time when teachers already have “previously unimaginable workload burdens”.

Classroom teachingClassroom teaching
Classroom teaching

Local authorities are setting their budgets in the wake of one of the toughest financial settlements since devolution, and a dispute with Scottish ministers in some areas over their demands for a council tax freeze.

Glasgow’s teaching post cuts aim to save £28 million over three years, while in other areas, including Falkirk and Perth and Kinross, there are proposals to shorten the school week.

In South Lanarkshire, there will be fewer school crossing patrollers and school librarians, and a 20p increase in the cost of school meals is proposed.

Councillors in Edinburgh managed to avert more than £8m of cuts to schools through "one-off" funding, reduced pension contributions and use of cash reserves.

Ahead of the 2021 election, the SNP pledged to recruit 3,500 additional teachers and classroom assistants, and councils were given extra funding to at least maintain teacher numbers. But the overall number fell by 122 between 2021 and 2022, and then dipped by another 160 full-time equivalents (FTE) last year.

EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley said: “As more and more local authorities reveal their budget plans, it is becoming increasingly clear that education provision across Scotland is being targeted for further deep and damaging cuts to resources, provision and staffing.

"Despite the Scottish Government commitments to maintain teacher numbers and, also, to protect the length of the pupil week, both of these areas are scheduled for cuts in local authority areas across the country.

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"Scottish education has already been greatly impacted by cuts to funding, resources and staffing over the past decade, and the fact is that there is nothing left to give.

"Teachers are already facing previously unimaginable workload burdens as a result of previous cuts, and the prospect of the picture becoming even more bleak will push many staff over the edge.”

The SNP also pledged to make progress towards closing the poverty-related attainment gap, but there are fears these efforts will be further undermined by the budget measures being considered.

James How, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association district secretary for Glasgow, said the plans would hit the poorest pupils hardest.

“School rolls in the secondary sector are still rising as we speak,” he told trade magazine Tes. “Reduced staffing will increase workloads and will be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of staff. It will probably lead to increased sick leave and have a direct impact on attainment, leaving pupils in Glasgow with a widening attainment gap to overcome.

“Pupils deserve to have the best educational opportunities we can provide. This budget does nothing to improve their educational outcomes.”

On Thursday, Scottish ministers agreed to hand local authorities an extra £62.7m after council chiefs said they did not have enough money to fund a council tax freeze, which was announced by First Minister Humza Yousaf in October last year.

Despite the additional resource, Argyll and Bute Council rejected the commitment, announcing a 10 per cent hike.

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A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “Officers are looking at several education service reform options as part of a budget that required to find £107m worth savings from council services over the next three years. For many years, education spending has been protected, relative to other services, in the budget process.

“However, with the education budget now amounting to more than half of service expenditure directed by the council, the level of savings required in the current financial situation is significantly more challenging.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is determined to close the poverty related attainment gap and ministers are clear that this will not be achieved by councils employing fewer teachers in our schools.

"To that end we are providing local authorities with £145.5m in next year’s budget to protect teacher numbers.

“The Scottish Budget for next year includes record funding for local authorities of over £14 billion and Scotland’s education and skills budget has grown to over £4.8bn.

“Councils have statutory obligations in respect of education, and have a shared commitment with the Scottish Government to deliver the best outcomes for people and communities under the Verity House Agreement.”



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