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Schools need investment (not cuts)

Schools need investment (not cuts)

Today will see the Government seek to pass its budget in Parliament. At the same time (or thereabouts) local authorities are also setting their budgets. Some have already done so, some are in the final stages. What is clear is that in all but a handful of places, education will see significant budget cuts – even if they get called efficiencies or reprofiling.

Given education is about human interaction, it is no surprise that the majority of these planned cuts relate to staff. Cuts in school crossing patrols, pupil support staff, teaching staff, management staff, central staff and staff in services which support pupils. Meanwhile, there will be a continued push for ‘improvement’ with stretch-aims as the new stick. This will sit alongside Getting it Right for Every Child – a policy that no one disagrees with but that has never been properly funded. It is not possible. With these cuts, standards will fall. There is a risk that we are at a tipping point and they will fall rapidly.

AHDS surveys tell us that the key things school leaders want to see change are i) inclusion policy to be properly supported ii) management time in primary to be increased so that HTs no longer need to work 53hrs/week and so that the role is manageable for those coming in behind them. These have been key points pretty much every year since the annual survey began – 8 years ago. When we have shared these survey outputs nationally and locally, there has been a lot of understanding but little action.

These surveys also show that there has been a continued fall in interest in headship amongst DHTs and PTs. This is not surprising and without investment in the system, this will likely worsen further.

Alongside all of this, ‘behaviour and relationships’ have been centre-stage over the last year. The BISSR research, an AHDS survey and surveys from most other teacher unions have painted a bleak and worsening picture in relation to dysregulated behaviour resulting in damage to property, injuries to staff and disrupted learning for a great many pupils. The children who are at the centre of these situations are not to blame. The statement “All behaviour is communication” is undoubtedly correct but schools need increased resources – in the form of trained pupil support assistants and support from external agencies – to be able to offer the required support.

There is a need to invest in all of these things. It seems clear that budget cuts will result in a worsening position on all fronts.

It is worth noting that some Councils are planning to shorten the pupil week in an effort to make ends meet. At least there is an honesty to this – it is a statement that puts quality above quantity and openly shares that things can’t go on as they are (and who says that the current number of pupil hours is the right amount – Finland has far fewer pupil hours per year but ranks significantly higher in international comparisons, more than half the schools in Colorado have a 4 day week with no concern about this having resulted in a negative impact on pupil outcomes).

AHDS calls on the Scottish Government and CoSLA to work together to avoid cuts, which in some areas appear will have a huge impact on services, and to prioritise investment in education in the coming period.

Greg Dempster

AHDS General Secretary