COUNCILS face a “very real risk” of failing to meet legal obligations on education as a result of spending cuts, according to parent groups and teaching unions.
The challenges facing schools are the “worst-kept secret in Scottish education” and teacher workload is a “ticking time bomb”, Holyrood’s Education and Culture Committee has been told.
MSPs are due to hear evidence on the issue of school spending as part of the committee’s scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2015/16.
A recent report by Audit Scotland found that council spending on education fell by 5% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2012/13, “largely as a result of employing fewer staff”.
In a submission to the committee, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said it has “very real concerns” about the draft budget.
The submission said: “The EIS is of the view that a continued real-terms fall in education spending will impact detrimentally on pupils and families and upon education staff.”
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The union added: “There is a very real risk of failure to meet statutory provisions.
“On a weekly basis, in parts of Scotland, pupils could be sent home through a lack of availability of supply teachers.”
The National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS) said local authorities had responded to budget pressures by “employing fewer staff, reducing teacher training and cutting back on classroom time”.
Its submission said: “Pupils are likely to experience over-crowding, reduced support and a less pleasant learning environment as a result of these cuts.
“Budget cuts will be disproportionately felt by the most disadvantaged communities and in turn this will impact on pupil attainment. The danger is that inequalities will become entrenched.”
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) called for a fundamental review of how education is provided to Scottish children in its written evidence.
The SPTC said: “ The challenges being faced every day in Scottish schools - lack of supply teachers, over-commitment of senior management, unfilled teacher and headteacher posts - is possibly the worst-kept secret in Scottish education and yet it affects the education of probably thousands of children and young people.
“While very few parents are aware of the situation, everyone involved in education at national and governmental level knows the reality.
“This is another instance of parents being kept in the dark in a deeply paternalistic and patronising way.”
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) raised concerns about the workload of school staff in its written evidence.
It said: “The Scottish Government is facing a ticking time bomb on teacher workload.
“In the last year, there can be no doubt that the implementation of the new qualifications has driven up teacher workload and bureaucracy.
“Teacher workload has already escalated to an unsustainable degree, without further workforce reductions being factored in.”
A Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) spokesman said: “Councils have to deal with budgets in the round. Education is, and always will be, a priority but at the end of the day councils are required by law to present a balanced budget and we all know the state of Scotland’s public finances.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government’s draft budget aims to build a prosperous and fair Scotland. Alongside a strengthened budget for learning, and additional investment in new and refurbished schools, we are determined to tackle inequalities and give all young people, from the earliest age, opportunities to succeed and contribute to the nation’s future success.
“The recent draft budget will help even more of our young people to succeed in school, college or a wide variety of training options. However, we must not forget that it is set against substantial cuts to the Scottish Government’s budget by Westminster.”
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