Parents of pupils at Kirkcaldy’s largest school have expressed fears that “drastic cuts” in the school budget will have an adverse effect on all pupils.
And they claim that the school having to make £265,000 of savings in this school year, rising to almost £350,000 over two years, could seriously impact on exam results, with the possiblity of larger class sizes, fewer staff and cuts in non-core subjects.
Several have also said that, after receiving a less-than glowing report from inspectors, the cutbacks will do nothing to improve the morale of teachers and pupils.
Balwearie received three “satisfactory” ratings and one “weak” for ensuring pupil wellbeing and inclusion in a school inspection report last year.
Parents were warned of the need for changes to be made in a letter from the rector, published on the school’s website before the end of the summer term.
A meeting was subsequently arranged when a presentation was made by Neil McNeil, with moves such as increasing the class sizes of non-practical subjects to 33, cutting guidance staff and grouping subjects together in faculties.
In the letter Mr McNeil said the Fife Council budget, approved in February, had identified the necessary savings.
“These savings cannot be made without significant changes to the way we work and consequently there must be a focus on our management structure as well as the structure of our curriculum,” it stated.
The Press has heard from parents who say that cutting elective subjects like music, drama and art could lead to the school becoming a purely academic establishment which only caters for high achieving pupils.
“For some children music and drama may be their only outlet and it would be a real shame if that was cut,” said one, who did not wish to be named.
“Likewise with PE which is vital for health and wellbeing, but because it is classed as being expensive to run it could be cut. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Another said: “The government is always promoting education for all, but it doesn’t seem to be practising what it preaches. It doesn’t really matter what we say they will do what they want.”
Shelagh McLean, the council’s head of service, said: “Fife Council, like all local authorities across Scotland, is facing a continuing and deepening financial challenge. Budget is allocated to schools through our devolved school management scheme and each headteacher has overall responsibility for financial decisions at a local level. Budget is distributed fairly, across all our schools, supporting our vision of improving everyone’s life chances.
“We are supporting and encouraging staff at Balwearie, as well as all our other schools, to focus on improvement in outcomes for our young people. Following the recent inspection, significant additional resources have been provided to help the headteacher make progress. These additional resources cannot be built into the school’s ongoing budget but have been made available as a support measure in the short term.”