Education Cuts & Commitments in Dundee Must Be Declared to Early Meeting of Education Committee

The Education Department of Dundee City Council has, I understand, been asked to identify a 2% budget reduction for next year, a reduction of close to £3 million. In a budget mainly spent on teaching staff, this will mean fewer teachers or a drastic reduction in other budgets. At the same time, Mike Russell, the new SNP Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Scottish Government realises he cannot afford to pay for the SNPs big electoral promises on class size reduction, free school meals and increasing teacher numbers. He wants to scale down the SNP promises and renegotiate the Concordat between the Scottish Government and local authorities.

Our Council is being asked to respond by Christmas to these new Concordat proposals which will, if endorsed, mean that class size reductions are focused in a minority of city council schools. But which schools will benefit and which ones will miss out? Free school meals for P1-3 primary classes will only be provided in some Primary Schools. But which children will benefit and which children will miss out? What will be the effect of the combination of class size reductions in some P1-3 classes, some additional free school meals and the planned £3 million budget cuts? Does this mean that some schools will not only lose out on the smaller class sizes and free school meals as well as taking the brunt of the planned cuts? Will some primary schools who receive extras teachers to reduce class sizes perversely lose access to specialist support for learning teachers, classroom assistants and visiting specialist teachers of physical education and music?

Parents and carers in Dundee will expect that this magnitude of chopping and changing should not be dreamed up behind closed doors and quietly put in place in the next school session. They would expect that important issues like this are carefully scrutinised by the Education Committee. I call on Education Convener Liz Fordyce and Leader of the Council Ken Guild to agree to hold an emergency meeting of the Education Committee before Christmas to debate these issues before signing up to a new concordat that commits the Council to actions that may have a perverse effect on primary schooling throughout our city.