Teachers in Edinburgh are having to buy basic supplies themselves

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CITY schools are at breaking point, a teachers’ leader warned today as she hit out at the “horrific” effects which further cuts would have.

Alison Murphy, Edinburgh secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country’s biggest teaching union, said teachers already saw it as normal for them to make up for lack of basic materials for their pupils by buying pens and pencils out of their own pocket.

The Evening News revealed last week that Edinburgh’s SNP-Labour administration is considering proposals to reduce the budgets given to headteachers by up to 3 per cent, which could affect staffing and class sizes.

Other measures being looked at include halving the current budget for instrumental music tuition.

Ms Murphy said: “Schools have already been cut to the bone and beyond. They are struggling to maintain even basic services.”

She said teachers were being asked to do more and more, helping to close the poverty-related attainment gap and supporting pupils with serious additional needs in mainstream schools.

Schools have already been cut to the bone and beyond. They are struggling to maintain even basic services

“More and more staff are becoming stressed, taking time off and choosing to leave the profession. We cannot take any more.”

The council needs to find total savings of £28 million from the 2019/20 budget to cope with financial pressures, including an unfunded pay rise for council staff, growing demand for services and an expected real-terms reduction in funding from central government.

Cutting devolved school management budgets by 1-3 per cent could save £6m over four years.

A council briefing document on the proposal – which would affect primary, secondary and special schools – says: “Within clear guidelines, headteachers would determine how best to implement the reduction within their own establishment.

“Headteachers can choose to make savings through general efficiencies, carefully targeted staffing reductions, either teaching or classroom assistants, or their own business support costs.”

The document also admits: “At the 3 per cent savings target smaller schools may not be able to maintain government-set teacher pupil ratios.”

Ms Murphy said: “The implications of these cuts would be horrific.”

And she pledged the union would be campaigning to stop the cuts.

She said: “Pretending that there are efficiency savings that can be made is just nonsense.”

Ms Murphy said teachers now took it for granted they would have to supply basics for their pupils at their own expense.

She said: “I remember going into one primary school and the teachers were talking about how great it was they had found a cheaper place to buy pens and pencils and scissors. It’s got to the stage where they just think it’s normal they have to provide these things themselves.”

Ms Murphy also hit out at the potential cut in music tuition. The council briefing document sets out two options for cutting the current £2.4m budget to £1.2m – halving the number of teachers and pupils, leaving 2,500 youngsters without lessons; or introducing charges of £321 per year, with exemptions for pupils studying music for SQA exams and those who qualify for free school meals.

But the council made clear the music school would not be affected.

Ms Murphy said: “In previous years when they have made proposals about cuts to the music service there have been large campaigns and they have been taken off the table.

“We were very concerned to hear about these proposed cuts to an incredibly valued service which is known to have massive benefits in all sorts of ways and which we strongly believe should be available to everyone, not just on the ability to 
pay.

“I hope councillors will remember the reaction to previous proposals and not go ahead with this.”

Parents have also voiced serious concern at the potential cuts.

Father-of-two Dominic Black, former chair of Holy Cross parent teacher association, said: “The biggest concern is the quality of education. Spending reductions on this scale can only have a detrimental effect on the education our children receive.”

The administration has made clear the proposed cuts have been drawn up by council officials and have not yet been endorsed by councillors.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com