Spending on Scots schools falls by £400m in a decade

More than £400million of spending has been axed from Scotland's '¨education system since the start of '¨the decade, official figures have revealed.

Older pupils have suffered the brunt of the cuts with spending on secondary education falling by about £350m from budgets since 2010.

Nurseries and primary schools saw a rise in spending, according to the figures from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe).

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Recent years have seen a worrying fall in Scottish education in international league tables and the SNP Government is now facing claims that it has failed to protect schools from the worst impact of Tory austerity

Teaching representatives have warned of a postcode lottery of who is entitled to lessons with annual charges of over £500. Picture: John DevlinTeaching representatives have warned of a postcode lottery of who is entitled to lessons with annual charges of over £500. Picture: John Devlin
Teaching representatives have warned of a postcode lottery of who is entitled to lessons with annual charges of over £500. Picture: John Devlin

Ministers insist councils are responsible for council budgets and point to the fact that there has also been some annual rises in spend over the past eight years.

But Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “No wonder we are seeing soaring class sizes, overworked teachers and a stubborn attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils.

“No amount of sloganeering from the Nationalists can hide the fact that 
they have not stood up for Scotland’s schools. Labour would take a different path, making the richest pay their fair share so we can invest in our schools and deliver a better deal for teachers, parents and pupils.”

Nicola Sturgeon has told Scots she wants to be “judged on her record” in tackling the gap in schooling standards between poorer and more affluent areas of Scotland.

Ministers insist they have committed £750m to tackling this over the course of the Parliament, but today’s figures reveal that £5.35 billion was spent by the Scottish Government on education in 2009/10. This compares with £4.95bn of spending last year.

Secondary spending has fallen from £2.25bn to £1.9 bn last year. Primary schooling has risen slightly to £1.96bn, but now tops secondary spending. Nursery spending has also seen a slight increase by more than £50m to reach £410m.

But special education, community learning and other non-school funding have also seen declines.

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Teacher numbers across Scotland have fallen by more than 3,500 since the SNP came to power in 2007 as the party prioritised NHS spending.

Councils have also faced stiff reductions to their budgets stemming from Westminster austerity cuts.

The number of schools across Scotland has also fallen by more than 200 to 2,524. This is despite hundreds of millions being spent to refurbish and rebuild schools.

Mr Gray added: “Education is what empowers us all to realise our full potential. When it fails, it isn’t just the individual who is held back, but all of us.

“Protecting education spending should have been a priority for the SNP when the Tories came to power. Instead there has been more than £400m worth of cuts since 2010.”

Scotland’s schools recorded their worst-ever performance in the latest set of Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) figures, with declines for scores in maths, reading and science

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committing £750m during the course of this Parliament to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap and ensure every child in Scotland has an equal chance to succeed – including another £120m Pupil Equity Funding direct to schools this year.

“Local authorities are responsible for setting school budgets and the latest figures show that their spend on education increased from £4.95bn in 2015-16 to £5.07bn in 2016-17 – a real terms increase of 0.3 per cent. Councils can choose to use their powers to increase council tax by up to 3 per cent.”

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Most of the £750m Attainment Scotland Fund – specifically the cash distributed through the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) – is included in the SPICe figures released today. About £120m was distributed in 2017/18 alone in PEF cash.

A Government spokesman added that ministers were managing Scotland’s finances prudently despite Brexit uncertainties and Westminster’s austerity measures.

A spokesman for local government body Cosla insisted Scotland’s councils have suffered the brunt of austerity cuts north of the Border in recent years.

The Cosla spokesperson said: “A series of recent independent reports from a range of organisations are clear in their analysis that local government has taken a real hit in terms of funding over the last couple of years. There is no doubt that this has had an impact on the essential services that councils deliver.

“We are faced with a situation where demand for our essential services outstrips our ability to pay for them all.”

About £750m has been axed from town hall budgets in the six years to 2018/2019, according to a SPICe report from earlier this year. This is a “much faster rate” than the decline in cuts to the Scottish Government’s budget from Westminster, the report said.

The fall in schools budgets comes after it emerged at the weekend that college funding is 10 per cent lower than it was just over a decade ago, according to separate SPICe figures.

Colleges will receive £664.9m in 2018-19 under the current budget, with £558.2m of this going on day-to-day running costs, and a further £76.7m for capital investment.

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That is down from a total of £739.6m spending on further education in 2007-08 – a drop of £74.7m over 11 years.

The figures showed spending on colleges increased in 2009-10 and 2010-11 – rising to £748.6m and then £785.7m.

While it was reduced after that – falling to £676.2m in 2001-12 – the college budget has risen in the last two budgets.

Spending on colleges went from a low of £575.4m in 2016-17 to £607.8m the following year and £664.9m in 2018-19.

The reduction was branded “brutal” by Labour, but ministers insist they are committed to college funding and the role colleges play in Scotland’s economic development.