Children lose out in swingeing school cuts

CHILDREN in almost two-thirds of Scottish schools have had their education damaged by swingeing budget cuts over the past year, a major new survey revealed last night.

Teachers in 19 of Scotland's 32 council areas reported that a downturn in classroom spending was harming children's education.

The cuts were so severe in three areas – Aberdeen, Renfrewshire and Glasgow – that they were yesterday damned as "criminal" by one teaching source.

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Many primary teachers have said they have been forced to buy classroom essentials, including pens and paper, from budget stores and Scotland on Sunday can reveal at least one big Glasgow comprehensive is trying to teach biology with a supplies budget of 42 a year.

The EIS, which carried out the survey, last night said the cuts in so-called "departmental budgets" – the amount of money schools spend on things like books, photocopying and stationery – had been cut to the bone as desperate head teachers and councils seek efficiency savings.

Willie Hart, the union's Glasgow branch secretary, said: "The cuts have now got to the stage when we have primary teachers going to Poundland to buy pens for their pupils from their own pockets. And we expect to see more cuts in the next financial year. This is serious."

The EIS, which represents four out of five teachers, polled 30 of its 32 branches to report on what impact local authority budgets were having on education in the financial year 2008-2009. Nineteen said negative, nine said neutral and only two said positive.

Ken Wimbor, the union's assistant general secretary, said: "We also asked them if there had been cuts in the budget and 20 said yes and 10 said no.

"Another question we asked was 'Do you anticipate job losses?' Seventeen said no but 12 said yes. Not compulsory redundancies, but job losses overall.

"Some councils are more severely hit than others. The situation in Renfrewshire and Aberdeen is the most serious and then it varies, with Glasgow facing a difficult situation."

Another source said: "Some of these cuts are just criminal. There are far too many children across Scotland who can't print out their work because there is no paper or ink."

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Specific problems flagged up by rank-and-file staff to the EIS include:

• A secondary in Renfrewshire whose social studies department has just 60 to spend on classroom supplies.

• Primary teachers in Aberdeen paying for photocopy paper, felt-tip pens and frieze paper from their own pockets.

• Staff in Glasgow and Renfrewshire getting pens and pencils from discount stores like Poundland.

• A business studies department in a Glasgow comprehensive whose budget, per pupil, for books and other supplies has tumbled from 3.18 in 2007-2008 to 2.19 this year.

Scotland on Sunday has obtained detailed figures for the departmental budgets of a typical Glasgow comprehensive, Drumchapel High. The school, which has an excellent reputation for its teaching despite serving some of Scotland's most deprived neighbourhoods, has slashed its spending on classroom supplies by 38%, from 26,212, less than the average salary of a single teacher, to 16,298.

Drumchapel's departmental budgets were down from 2,700 to 1,361 for English, from 2,600 to 1,402 for maths and from 1,480 to 886 for modern languages. Its budgets for discrete biology and chemistry were 42 and 44 respectively, not including photocopying.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said yesterday: "It is for the councils and schools to allocate their own budgets and, under the concordat, we have given local authorities more freedom to spend their funding in the best way to meet local needs."