Kingdom ‘is at risk of losing whole generation of children’

Cllr Bryan Poole reassured  teachers that cost-saving proposals  in Fife Council's education service would not entail redundancies.
Cllr Bryan Poole reassured teachers that cost-saving proposals in Fife Council's education service would not entail redundancies.

Controversial proposals to cut Fife’s education budget will risk life-chances for a “whole generation” of children, teachers fear.

That was the sobering reaction from the frontline after Fife Council admitted its controversial cost-saving proposals would entail a reduction in teacher numbers.

Scotland’s largest teaching union EIS maintains the plans - which would give primary school children Friday afternoons off and also see class sizes increase to 30 pupils in S1/S2 Maths and English - would see 180 jobs go: 40 secondary school posts and 140 primary posts.

In a bid to reassure worried staff, education spokesman Cllr Bryan Poole later said the proposals, if approved next month, would not result in redundancies.

“We have something between 3000-4000 teachers but there is a significant turnover every summer, so there would be a reduction in hiring but nobody’s job is being lost. It would be natural wastage, where some leaving or retiring would not be replaced.”

However, one secondary school teacher - who requested anonymity - said bosses were missing the point.

“This is not about the impact on individual teachers and their pensions; it’s about the impact these cuts are going to have on children,” he said. “We’re already working in classes with little resources and the job is getting very difficult to do.”

He added: “You have maybe 20 per cent of pupils for whom no amount of resources will make an appreciable difference and then there’s the top five per cent who are bright enough to achieve the A grades neccessary to access a university of their choice.

“It’s the 75 per cent of pupils who need that extra push, an extra 10 minutes of a teacher’s time, who will suffer.

“The effects of that will eventually be noticed but by then it will be too late; the opportunity has gone for them.

“We risk losing a whole generation of kids.”

David Farmer, spokesman for Fife EIS, confirmed the union would fight cuts concerned only about “saving money and nothing to do with educational improvement”.

He said: “There’s been a lot of hype from the service about how the proposed changes 
to teaching hours in primary schools will ‘improve’ 

“We are not convinced by this at all because the bottom line is they are asking for the same thing to be delivered by fewer teachers in less time.”

“EIS’s position is we are opposed to the cuts, and we are not saying that without recognising the financial position that Fife Council is in and will be in for the next two years.

“Between now and the mid-February budget, proposals can change.”