'Devastating' Edinburgh school cuts could mean 'less than half a Netflix subscription' worth of cash left for jotters, textbooks and equipment per pupil

Money for jotters, text books and equipment could be 'less than half a Netflix subscription'

Thursday, 13th February 2020, 5:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 5:39 pm

Cuts to school funding proposed in the city council budget will have a “devastating” effect, forcing heads to choose between cutting courses, staff or resources, a teachers’ leader has warned.

EIS Edinburgh secretary Alison Murphy said the £1.8m reduction in the budgets handed to heads could leave some schools with as little as £35 to pay for each pupil’s books, equipment and materials for an entire year.

She said: “We could end up with a situation where the money available to buy the jotters, science equipment and so on that one pupil needs over a year is less than half what I spend on my Netflix subscription.”

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Teachers will be lobbying the council on Friday to stop the cuts to schools

As well as the cut in the devolved school budgets, the council is proposing to remove qualified teachers from nursery schools, replacing them with early years practitioners; save £500,000 from instrumental music teaching; and cut the number of quality improvement officers, who give specialist advice and support to teachers and heads.

'Devastating'

Ms Murphy, who will be putting the teachers’ case against the cuts to councillors on Friday, said: “What is being proposed is devastating. Schools are already stretched beyond what is reasonable.

“A decade of cuts has left us in a situation where staff are regularly putting their hands in their pockets to buy absolutely basic resources - or, indeed, to bring in food for kids who don’t have enough to eat at home.

“Levels of stress are through the roof and teachers report feeling overwhelmed on a daily and weekly basis.”

She said the music cut would mean the end of Edinburgh’s proud tradition of high-quality free music tuition for all, hitting the poorest in the city. And she said the union had explained last year the damage which would be done by removing nursery teachers. The proposal was later dropped.

“The arguments have not changed,” she said. “Early years practitioners do a fabulous job, but it is a different one to teachers. If we want the best for our children, we need them all working together.”

She said it was incorrect for the council to claim, as it did earlier this week, that there was no evidence teachers made a difference in the nursery context. “The Care Inspectorate data that are relying on to claim that this is a cut without a cost looks primarily at wellbeing indicators, and not at the curriculum. We’ve already given councillors evidence of what the removal will do to learning.”

And she said noted academics and experts had backed the importance of retaining nursery teachers - including Naomi Eisenstadt, an independent adviser to Nicola Sturgeon on poverty and inequality.

Dr Eisenstadt told her in an email: “All the evidence tells me that early care and education is most beneficial when it is high quality and led by fully qualified teachers. If the purpose of provision is to narrow the gap between poor children and their better off peers, quality and consistency is essential.”