SNP Government gives green light to councils to cut teacher numbers over funding row

Minister for Education and Skills Jenny Gilruth
-Credit: (Image: PA)

The SNP Government has given the green light to councils to cut teacher numbers amid a tense funding dispute.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth has offered cash-strapped local authorities flexibility after tying extra cash to a no-cuts policy.

Gilruth linked £145.5m to councils maintaining teacher numbers over concerns reductions would harm pupils.

But councils claimed protecting staff numbers in this way resulted in a bigger cut for other services.

In a letter council umbrella group Cosla, Gilruth has blinked first by partially rolling back on what she said previously.

She wrote that she wanted to provide “reassurance” that the risk of losing all the funding for a “small reduction” in teacher numbers is “removed”.

She added that she will take various factors into account when assessing whether councils have met grant conditions.

One is whether reductions in school teaching staff reflect changes to the council's pupil roll.

She added: “Ultimately, funding will be withheld where we do not think these additional mitigations are reasonable, but we will discuss this with any council in such a position so that we fully understand the circumstances before arriving at a decision.

“I have discussed this with the First Minister, and have instructed my officials to issue revised grant offer letters to all councils very shortly.”

Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “This shows the complete chaos the SNP is in on education and confirms that it is happy to see teachers’ jobs go.

“I’ve lost count of the positions the Cabinet Secretary has taken on this matter. All the while teacher numbers are dropping, probationary teachers can’t find permanent jobs while being used to fill SNP gaps on the cheap, and staff are leaving the profession.

“It is only this way because the SNP has been underfunding councils for years.

“We all want our children to have teachers who are in secure jobs and are well supported. On this Government’s watch, this is just not the case and this letter proves it has no intention of fixing it.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to protecting teacher numbers, which is why we are offering local authorities £145.5 million to support them for that purpose - providing further protection for children’s education.

“We hope that councils, who are responsible for the employment of teachers, will accept these grants so they can continue to benefit from this significant funding.

“The Education Secretary’s letter provides clarity on the basis in which these funds may be withheld, taking into consideration the financial concerns raised by local authorities.

"This is not different than the approach taken previously - however, what is different is the requirement that local authorities commit to maintain teacher numbers in advance of receiving the grant funding available."

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