Education funding cuts will result in the loss of school staff dedicated to helping Dundee pupils worst affected by poverty.
City schools will lose around £4.9 million over the next four years from a government grant targeted at pandemic recovery and raising attainment among disadvantaged children.
It will see spending withdrawn later this year for 22 posts – including speech therapists in nurseries and primary schools and staff focussed on mental health and wellbeing.
Most of the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) funding – £6.2m this year – is spent on employing 129 specialists, also in teaching support and parental engagement.
But the fund – currently targeted at the nine local authorities in greatest need – is to be shared out across Scotland, meaning Dundee’s portion will dwindle by around £1.23m each year as the change is phased in.
Cash for the 2022/23 school year will pay for two employees in speech and language therapy compared to 5.5 FTEs this year, and seven fewer posts in health and wellbeing, which currently has 44.8 FTEs. There will be 9.5 fewer FTEs in other areas.
Vacant posts will be left unfilled and schools – which are also given Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) to help boost attainment – left to procure services themselves.
No speech and language therapists will be employed by the fund for nurseries after June, with the council stating that training of early years staff in literacy acquisition meant they were no longer needed.
Lochee councillor and Labour’s education spokesman in the Scottish Parliament, Michael Marra, said: “Speech and language therapy is critical to vulnerable young people to ensure that they can learn in school and have what are fundamental life skills.”
He previously warned more than 100 education jobs could be lost in Dundee as a result of the SAC redistribution and described it “perverse” to cut resources as schools strive to reverse the damage done by the pandemic.
He said: “These are the merely the first round of cuts, which will see Dundee’s attainment challenge funding reduce by around 80% by 2025.
For the first time we can see the hurt. This year 22 dedicated staff members working to help young people from the toughest of backgrounds will be lost.”
Michael Marra, Labour education spokesman and Lochee councillor
“That is £4 in every £5 slashed from the fund which is designed to support the learning of our most vulnerable children.
“The executive director of the council has stated that there is no question the cuts will have an impact on young people.
“For the first time we can see the hurt.
“This year 22 dedicated staff members working to help young people from the toughest of backgrounds will be lost.”
However, Dundee City Council said SAC investment had already benefited core education services and that work will continue.
We are already ensuring that the work… will continue, just in a different way.”
Councillor Stewart Hunter, Dundee children and families services convener
Children and families services convener, Stewart Hunter, also pointed out SAC redistribution had been supported by every Labour council leader in Scotland and opposed by Dundee’s SNP leader John Alexander.
He said: “Over the last decade Dundee’s attainment has seen significant improvement along with our exam results and positive destinations.
“While it’s obviously disappointing that our share of [SAC] will not be the same, the ambition of the administration remains to build on the achievements of the last decade.
“Part of the [SAC] is already embedded into our core services, and we are already ensuring that the work of the [SAC] will continue, just in a different way.”