Exclusive:Why Jenny Gilruth is 'very hopeful' of a last minute council U-turn to avert Glasgow's teacher cuts

City could be left with a multi-million pound budget hole

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth has signalled she will not back down in a row over teacher job cuts in Glasgow and she remains “very hopeful” that the local authority will rethink the plans.

Glasgow City Council triggered a huge row in February after it emerged the SNP-run authority intended to axe 172 teaching posts this year, reducing by a total of 450 over the next three years. The move was agreed despite the SNP being committed nationally to increasing teacher numbers.

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Glasgow City Council made the decision as part of a budget that assumed it would still receive a share of £145.5m of funding provided by the Scottish Government to maintain teacher numbers.

However, councils across Scotland are still to sign up to the terms of the agreement, with leaders due to meet next week at a Cosla gathering.

They fear the deal could lead to “deeper cuts” in other parts of their budgets.

But Ms Gilruth appears adamant that any council that refuses to agree to maintain teacher numbers will not be getting the additional funding.

It could leave Glasgow and some other authorities with a multi-million pound hole in their budgets if they do not U-turn on teacher cuts.

Speaking exclusively to The Scotsman, the education secretary said: “We've been engaging with Glasgow throughout this process, and I should say, it's not just Glasgow, it's a number of local authorities facing challenges at this current time.

“But I've been really clear in my time as education secretary about the need to protect this funding for teacher numbers.”

Previously, the Scottish Government provided councils with additional funding to maintain teacher numbers and then had to decide whether to ask for it back if they decreased.

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Following a change, the funding will not now be handed out in the first place unless local authorities agree to the condition of maintaining teacher numbers.

Ms Gilruth said: “We will continue to work with local authorities such as Glasgow to make sure that we do, and we are able to maintain Scotland's teacher numbers.

“The current proposals in relation to the grant letters really look for them to sign up in advance of being in receipt of the funding.

“So it moves away from that model, and instead asks them to agree to maintain teacher numbers before the funding goes out the door. So we're not acting on the backfoot.

“As I understand it, all local authorities have budgeted to be in receipt of this funding, but it hasn't yet been agreed to.”

Asked if she believed the jobs would be saved, the Cabinet secretary answered: “I'm very hopeful because maintaining teacher numbers in Scotland's schools is good for our children and young people, it's good for attainment, it's good for responding to things like behaviour, responding to things like Pisa, and I don't think any parent or carer in Scotland would agree with a policy for the Government to move away from maintaining teacher numbers.”

Councillor Richard Bell, city treasurer at Glasgow City Council, said: “Yes, Glasgow's budget was based on an assumption of receiving a share of that money and we will continue our dialogue with Scottish Government colleagues.” Around 13,000 people have signed a petition against education cuts in Glasgow, with a protest planned for next month.

Campaigners are also concerned about a proposed cut to funding for Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) co-ordinators in Glasgow and to the MCR Pathways programme for disadvantaged pupils. Leanne McGuire, chair of Glasgow City Parents Group, said: “I think at this point, the Scottish Government need to intervene in Glasgow.

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“Because people are losing their jobs left, right and centre, first of all. Teaching jobs are are not secure for people.

“Then you’ve got DYW workers who, at the moment, still think they are going to be out of a job at the end of June.

“And then obviously you’ve got all the health and safety concerns for us as parents about the staffing ratios, and then how it is impacting their kids.”

A Cosla spokesperson: “Local Government is committed to improving outcomes and has set ambitious aims for improving attainment, health and wellbeing of Scotland’s children and young people.

“As we have been clear, this is not only about £145.5m of funding provided by the Scottish Government, but that this ringfences over £3.3bn that funds the 54,000 teachers across Scotland.

“Considering severe financial pressures facing local government, this means that even deeper cuts to crucial services such as social work support, early intervention services, cultural services, youth work and libraries

“Cosla leaders discussed this at their meeting on 26th April and wrote to the Cabinet secretary and the then deputy first minister the following week seeking further discussion on a shared approach to supporting children and young people and look forward to receiving their response.”

Earlier this month, Glasgow City Council said: “Officers will continue to have meaningful consultation with trade unions to discuss the challenges and they are aware of the savings required.

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“Education staff have met with headteachers across the city to support and help with staffing models for the new term.

“At every stage we will do everything we can to minimise any impact to schools, but in the current financial climate the council must look at every option.

“Officers are looking at several education service reform options as part of a budget that required £108m of savings from council services over the next three years, not including social care.

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