Scotland’s schools are facing cuts to classroom assistants, school buses and music tuition as a result of swingeing cuts unveiled in the Scottish Government’s recent budget, MSPs have been warned.
Town hall chiefs are now warning the scale of the reductions could undermine Nicola Sturgeon’s flagship drive to cut the schooling gap between rich and poor areas of Scotland.
Education chiefs from Scotland’s councils delivered a stark assessment of the impact on schooling after John Swinney unveiled plans to axe about £350 million from local authority budgets next year alone.
Malcolm Cunning of Glasgow City Council warned the city faces losing £133m over the next two years. And despite a pledge to protect teachers numbers, he warned this “is bound to have an effect on education.”
“What we have to look at are other costs within education whether that’s specific music and art provision. We’re having to look at staff support in terms of additional support for learning in some of the schools.
“Decisions have not been made, but what you may find is there are fewer support staff within schools and therefore teachers are standing at the photocopier instead of standing in the classroom. There’s no way that local authorities can save sums like £133 million over the space of two years and there’s not some kind of impact in terms of the educational provision.”
Gary Robinson, leader of Shetland Islands Council hit out at claims from John Swinney that local government was facing a cut of just 1%.
He said: “We’ve seen the biggest percentage cut in local government this year of 5.1% cash.”
This represents a fall of about £5 million to £82 million in Scottish Government support this year and education services are likely to suffer, he added.
Paul Godzik Of Edinburgh City Council said the council is likely to lose £140 million from its budget over the next four years.
The council is committed to protecting teachers numbers but warned there is likely to be a “real impact” in other aspects of schooling.
“That may be music tuition, that may be pupils support - these are things we’re having to look at because of the scale of the budget reductions.”
Stephanie Primrose, of East Ayrshire Council, who is local government body Cosla’s spokeswoman on Children and Young People also warned of school services being hit.
“We are talking about music, we are talking about school transport - that as you know has a statutory element to it.”
She warned that “vulnerable children” could also suffer as social work, education psychology and family workers and case workers all face cuts.
Councillor Primrose also said Ms Sturgeon’s flagship pledge to drive down the “attainment gap” could be undermined by the scale of the cuts.
She added: “Teachers have a job to do. If we cut back on things like classroom assistants, the support that we have in, then teachers are going to have to deal more and more with that type of thing. Teachers are going to have deal with all the emotional baggage that pupils have. They’re not social workers, they’re not counsellors and as we cut back on those services teachers are going to be under increasing strain.”
Robert Nicol, chief officer, Children and Young People at Cosla: “The reduction that local government faces won’t make closing the attainment gaps any easier - that goes without saying.”
He said thatclosing this gap was not just down to school activity, but also wider services from councils and the voluntary sector.
“There’s no one single solution but when you’re constrained in terms of overall funding and flexibility is reduced in terms of how you can redirect the funding locally, that must have an impact on the things you can do locally to tackle things like the attainment gap.”