Edinburgh Council's spending plans fail to prioritise education, but councillors can change that – Alison Dickie
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In previous years, when an Edinburgh councillor, budgets were my world at this time of year, including stressful talks around educational cuts. And if I were to choose now between both, the fish wins!
Let’s talk about that trout! You see, I’m fairly well versed on most project topics but the life and times of the good old river trout isn’t one of them. For me, this required crash research to get up to speed on the topic. This, of course, like many other teacher tasks, happened in the evening and at the weekend.
Having reconnected with my profession, I’m reminded of the sheer workload teachers juggle and the assumption that it’s all possible within school hours. I know few teachers who don’t work evenings or weekends, and all who do, do so for the sake of the children in their classrooms. Added to this are stretched resources, even just photocopying, and the current fight for fair pay.
In this backdrop, it’s vital that councillors better understand education and the true impact of the cuts proposed by officers. News of proposals in some councils to cut teacher hours are simply unbelievable. This should have never been on the table.
As I write, I’m recalling a conversation with longstanding councillors when first elected whilst a teacher, who told me “you’ll find out what hard work means now”! And another about saving nursery teachers which was simply insulting to the profession.
Budget times felt like a constant fight around different tables, trying to protect the education and children’s services budgets. In Edinburgh’s case, there is what looks like a political vote-grab – appearing to protect teachers whilst failing to understand the holistic education required to support all learners by cutting classroom assistants and support across disabilities and additional needs.
There’s little doubt that the financial pressure is significant and councils need to be properly funded… but it comes down to priorities too. These proposals do not prioritise education. I wonder if councillors will vote to do so?
Alison Dickie is a teacher, who was a councillor for Southside Newington, vice-convener of education, and a Scottish Parliament official