Scottish Government
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Education system 'must deliver or face change'

The Scottish Government is to hold talks with leaders of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to find a new way forward on the issues of class sizes and teacher numbers.

A fall in teacher numbers shown in the latest statistics has been branded 'unacceptable' by Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop who now wants to examine whether current arrangements in schools are capable of successfully implementing national education policy.

Half of Scotland's councils have reduced primary class sizes and the COSLA talks will focus on ways in which this progress can be achieved across all councils.

At the Association of Directors of Education Scotland conference (ADES) Education Secretary, Ms Hyslop said:

"Half of Scotland's councils have delivered improvements in primary school class sizes. Half have not. What is more, there has been a sharp fall in the number of teachers. That is simply unacceptable.

"We now have to find a new way forward to ensure class size reductions in P1 to P3 are delivered in all of Scotland's councils. The Scottish Cabinet will hold talks with COSLA leaders to discuss how we achieve this.

"Everything will be on the table and we will keep an open mind, but parents and pupils have a right to insist on progress. That's why we will discuss how best to establish where the estimated 110 million pounds that could have been spent on teacher salaries has been spent, what help can be offered to individual councils facing specific difficulties and whether the Scottish Government needs to examine alternatives to the current system of local government delivery of education policy."

"In our Concordat with local government it was explicitly accepted that sufficient funding had been made available to maintain teacher numbers at 2007 levels. Council budgets are also rising, total education spending is up and nationally attainment is improving.

"The recession and other pressures mean slower progress on class sizes was inevitable but overall, councils have clearly spent over £110 million of funding provided by the Scottish Government for teachers salaries on other purposes.

"Many councils are making real progress - particularly in places like East Ayrshire, Angus, Midlothian, and South Ayrshire. Too many are not.

"What's more, some councils are deliberately refusing to meet their class size pledge. In particular, Glasgow City Council is responsible for more than one quarter of the total fall in teacher numbers. For one authority among 32 councils to account for such a huge drop is deplorable.

"What is truly shocking is that Glasgow City Council has increased class sizes and cut teacher numbers at exactly the same time as figures for attainment show they are the worst performing council in Scotland. The percentage of Glasgow S5 pupils achieving three Highers is down and now stands at just over half the Scottish average. To slash teacher numbers at the same time as attainment is falling is an act of reckless disregard for the interests of children.

"The Scottish Government is already taking action where it can. We have announced a £10 million borrowing facility which will enable local authorities to offer early retirement to up to 500 teachers, creating job opportunities for newly qualified teachers. We also directly funded 300 additional permanent teachers in 2007 and made available funding for an extra 100 teachers for Curriculum for Excellence.

"The Cabinet talks with COSLA leaders will now allow a way forward to be found and we will keep an open mind on all options while these talks are underway."

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