Falkirk Council leader vows no reduction in teacher numbers

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The numbers just don’t add up for members of Falkirk Council’s Education Excutive who were asked to find cuts from Children’s Services budget in the year ahead.

At Tuesday’s meeting, when presented with a range of possible savings that included losing jobs and cutting subjects offered, council leader Cecil Meilkejohn confirmed her administration would not accept any compulsory redundancies.

“I would like to restate my previous commitment to maintaining the pupil-teacher ratio and to no compulsory redundancies,” she told members.

She confirmed the administation would not accept a proposal to cut secondary teachers by 34.5 FTE.

“We will not give consideration to that option as this will have a significant impact on the curriculum,” she said.

“All the other proposals we will be giving consideration to within the wider context of the budget.”

That means the target of £5.83 million will almost certainly not be met by Children’s Services, leaving other departments with a headache as they look to bridge the huge gap between expenditure and the funding they can expect from the Scottish Government.

The teacher’s union, the EIS, welcomed the commitment but said people were still facing huge uncertainty over what cuts will now be imposed.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Colin Finlay, local secretary of the teacher’s union the EIS, said: “Whilst it was encouraging to hear the council reiterate their commitment to preserving the pupil-teacher ratio, it’s still frustrating that at this late stage – the budget meeting is on February 21 – we don’t have any real specifics – only vague headline numbers.

“A lot was made during the meeting about consultation in schools.

“We’re not getting any sense of that on the ground.

“Staff in schools still feel isolated and vulnerable and concerned about the massive cuts coming.”

Fiona Craig, the secondary teacher representative on the Education Executive, warned that even cuts that seemed to have minimal impact came with risks.

A proposal to ditch registration classes in favour of an electronic system, SEEMIS, could impact on pastoral care, she told councillors.

“What that will do is remove that first line of guidance for pupils – the single point of contact that pupils get every single day,” she said.

“Also, pastoral staff often meet with pupils during registration so it doesn’t impact on teaching and learning time,” Ms Craig told councillors.

“On paper, it’s reasonable, but there needs to be an understanding of the impact it’s going to have,” she said.

The budget will be decided at a meeting of the full council on February 23.

However, councillors still don’t know the exact amount Falkirk will receive as the Scottish Government is unable to get its budget through the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Green Party says it won’t support a budget that offers so little to cash-strapped councils and no other party has offered support.

Labour’s education spokesman, Alan Nimmo, expressed frustration that suggestions which had been made at meetings with parents and from individual schools had not been brought to the committee.

Director Robert Naylor explained that headteachers of primary and secondary schools had decided to work together collectively to bring forward proposals.

These include removing teachers who support nursery provision as early years staff are increasingly well-qualified.

Children’s Services will also look at allocations of support for learning assistants, supplies and services and other school support.

Labour’s Dennis Goldie said they did not want to see any job losses resulting from the budget.