Tayside and Central Scotland

Falkirk Council rules out cutting teacher numbers

Larbert High
Image caption Larbert High School may have to save more than £500,000

A council considering cuts to education spending has ruled out reducing teacher numbers to save money.

The prospect of cutting teachers' jobs was raised in letters sent to parents by schools in the Falkirk Council area.

The council has now clarified that teacher numbers will only fall if pupil numbers drop too.

Head teachers in the area have been asked to identify more than £4m of possible savings at their primary and secondary schools.

Last week parents received letters from head teachers explaining how much money their schools may have to save.

Expressed alarm

On social media, some parents have expressed alarm about the prospect.

The council leader has now clarified two key points.

Firstly, there will be no cuts to teacher numbers unless the school roll is also falling. That way pupil-teacher ratios will be maintained.

Secondly, secondary students will still have the same range of subjects to choose from.

However, it is possible that some less-popular subjects will be offered at central "hubs" rather than individual schools.

Parents in the area have used the letters they have received to collate figures for the proposed savings at different schools.

The other figures quoted by parents include:

•Braes High - £111,058

•Denny High - £364,641

•Falkirk High - £314,355

•Graeme High - £304,737

•Grangemouth High - £215,982

•St Mungo's High - £323,148

BBC Scotland has seen an e-mail sent by Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn, which clarifies the exercise being carried out by the council.

She explains that the budget exercise being undertaken this year is no different from the one carried out for many years.

Senior managers are asked to identify savings in line with financial predictions before they receive exact details of the grant to be received from the Scottish government in late December.

She adds that a group which includes unions scrutinises suggestions from management for savings and will also seek to pursue savings options such as greater co-operation between schools.

The e-mail said: "The aim by giving each school a savings target was to allow them to look at what was important within their school community giving them an element of autonomy and look at how they can work collaboratively within their cluster to bring about efficiencies.

'Unprecedented cuts'

Falkirk wants to save a total of £5.83m in children's services overall in each of the next five years, which it describes as "unprecedented cuts".

BBC Scotland understands potential options could still involve reducing the number of support staff in schools.

This is likely to meet fierce resistance from teachers' unions as well as the unions representing these staff.

Some teachers across Scotland believe cuts to support staff have added to their workload, with this concern being reflected in the campaign by teachers for a 10% pay rise.

Overall Falkirk Council currently faces a budget gap of about £18m in 2019/20 although it will not know the exact numbers until after next month's Scottish budget.