Proposed cuts to Fife’s education budget could have catastrophic consequences for schools, parents, pupils and teachers, it has been claimed.
Members of Fife’s largest teaching union the EIS aired their concerns about the impact of cost-cutting during a public meeting in Glenrothes last night.
The region’s education chiefs have stressed that no decisions have been taken on potential budget savings. However, union officials underlined their opposition to a number of possibilities.
A reduction in the length of the school day; fewer guidance teachers; fewer promoted teachers; larger class sizes; and plans to shelve “uneconomic” subjects at some levels were among the options discussed during the debate last night.
Presentations were given by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and EIS national president Alison Thornton.
With the prospect of more than £4.1 million in cuts on the table, Ms Thornton said she was particularly concerned about a suggested reduction of almost 40 full-time equivalent promoted staff posts.
“We do not believe an educational rationale has been provided for this – less simply cannot provide more,” she said.
“The EIS understands the financial challenges facing Fife Council and all local authorities.
“However, it would be remiss of us if we did not make clear our opposition to proposals that would have a damaging effect.”
The EIS also fears an increased workload for classroom teachers if management responsibilities are shifted on to unpromoted staff.
The union believes this will lead to increased stress, higher absenteeism and more pupils being taught by cover teachers.
Ms Thornton added that while teachers were contracted to 35 hours a week, many were actually working an average of 46 hours.
Mr Rennie highlighted the importance of leadership in schools and said it was “quite alarming” to hear that more than 10% of probationers were giving up after a short period of time.
On pay and conditions, the North East Fife MSP called for a root and branch review and a new agreement on teacher terms and conditions to try to “stop the rot”.
“The cuts proposed are not acceptable and they need to be stopped,” he said.
One parent also highlighted plans to cut lessons at Madras College by three minutes.
“It doesn’t sound a lot but that’s 5% of the school year – that’s two whole weeks and it needs to be put in those terms,” she said.
Fife Council insist there was a “significant difference” between savings proposals and the policies that will be accepted by the joint administration.