Teacher numbers to be hit as councils examine budgets

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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An analysis of council budget plans reveals cutting teacher numbers is seen as a viable way of saving money, despite admitting it may reduce attainment or damage prospects for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Angus Council has agreed to save £1.59 million in teacher costs over three years, seeing “scope to reduce teacher numbers”.

Meanwhile Aberdeenshire Council is shaving £340,000 from its special education teacher budget by not filling existing vacancies.

Perth and Kinross Council did a U-turn on axeing 50 teaching posts but will cut more than £500,000 from its secondary school teacher budget over the next three year to maintain class sizes of 20 in S1 and S2 English and maths.

While not all budgets have been agreed, teaching unions have expressed concern at decisions and proposals.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, called for a nationally-agreed staffing standard.

“Councils seeking to cut numbers – and justifying these cuts by reference to national pupil-teacher ratios – would be something that the EIS would oppose rigorously,” he said.

“If the wording of current agreements on maintaining teacher numbers offer the potential for local authorities to cut teaching posts, the Scottish Government needs to address these anomalies.

“Simply applying national pupil-teacher ratios is too blunt an instrument, and does not take account of local issues such as the need to maintain appropriate staffing levels to ensure rural schools remain open in small communities.

“This emerging situation further highlights the need for a nationally agreed staffing standard, in order to ensure that all schools are staffed adequately to meet the needs of pupils and communities.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Local government funding to schools is increasing. We want more decisions on school funding to be in the hands of schools and our education reforms are focused on giving schools and headteachers more power and money to raise standards and close the attainment gap.

“Despite continued UK government real-term cuts to Scotland’s budget, we have treated local government very fairly. In 2018-19, councils will receive funding through the local government finance settlement of £10.7 billion.”

“This will provide a cash-terms increase in funding for local revenue services of over £174m– a 1.8 per cent rise - and capital spending of £89.9m – an increase of 11.4 per cent.”