Call to fine councils who cut teacher numbers

Unions fear for teacher numbers. Picture: Cate Gillon (Posed by models)

Unions fear for teacher numbers. Picture: Cate Gillon (Posed by models)

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UNIONS are calling on the Scottish Government to impose financial penalties on local authorities, including Edinburgh, for slashing teacher numbers.

The Capital has cut 63 teaching posts – the second highest of all Scottish councils – despite a Scotland-wide agreement to maintain existing staffing levels.

Across Scotland the number of teachers fell by more than 250 to 50,824 between 2013 and 2014, leading to bigger class sizes. Teaching unions fear that unless councils face some sort of penalty they will continue to cut teacher numbers to save money.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: “The agreement to maintain teacher numbers was designed to keep class sizes down to ensure a quality environment for pupils.

“There is absolutely no educational rationale for reducing teaching staff levels in schools at a time when workload demands are increasing owing to factors such as curricular change, the introduction of new methods of assessment and the creation of a new qualifications system.

“To continue to cut teacher levels is to short-change pupils in our schools, with worrying potential consequences for both these young people and the whole of Scotland.”

The Scottish Government has refused to impose penalties pending discussion on how councils will be judged on their educational performance in future. But a spokesman said penalties could be imposed if the discussions stalled.

The spokesman said the decline in teacher numbers was disappointing but councils were under financial pressures.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com