If government serious about attainment and reducing inequality, it needs to stop cuts

Carol Ball
Carol Ball

#stuc2017 STUC delegates heard of the real experience of education staff on the front line as they voted to campaign against cuts in education and expose the impact on tackling child poverty and inequality.

Backing a NASUWT motion, UNISON’s Carol Ball told delegates about UNISON Scotland’s Hard Lessons survey of members working in schools last September. Over 900 members responded across a range of school support roles with over half of them from classroom and support for learning assistants across 25 local authorities. https://unison-scotland.org/2017/01/16/hard-lessons-support-staff-struggling-to-maintain-standards-for-pupils-because-of-cuts/

Carol said: “Scottish Government figures show that between 2010 and 2015 there was an increase of 6,707 pupils in Scottish schools but there is 1,841 fewer support staff and 1,389 fewer teachers. These figures just don’t add up. How can the gap around educational attainment for young people be reduced when the resources needed to achieve this is being cut?

“Library staff numbers in secondary schools have been reduced from 334 to 249 sadly it is young people from the most deprived backgrounds that need school libraries and librarians the most, they are least likely to have access to computers, printers, research and general studying.

“The Scottish Government has also set improving science, technology, engineering and maths education as a priority and yet we have 251 less technicians in our schools to support this type of learning.”

Carol quoted one of the members who responded to the survey: “Schools have fewer supplies, they are not being thoroughly cleaned regularly, management have taken one cleaner out of each school and the work is split between the remaining staff we used to clean classrooms on a daily basis now this is twice a week it’s absurd that children are sitting at dirty desks and classroom are now not as clean as they should be.”

Carol added: “Almost 80% of our members indicated that their workload is getting heavier they are increasingly having to work extra unpaid hours as expectations remain the same despite the cuts to support for learning, clerical and cleaning posts. This situation cannot continue.

“Congress if the Scottish Government is serious about raising attainment and reducing inequality for our children and young people they need to realise that it takes the whole education team who should have access to high quality training and adequate resources to achieve this. Therefore increasing the funding for Education is vital not cutting it.”

Additional needs

A following motion pointed out that the impact of austerity on local authority budgets was stretching resources for Additional Support for Learning.

Delegates backed the call to ensure that all local authorities meet their statutory requirements to provide information and services; investigate the availability and uptake of advocacy and mediation services across Scotland; and campaign for improved services which match the
aims and aspirations of equity and excellence within Scottish education.

Supporting the motion Carol Ball noted that services were needed to support a range of needs including Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, Complex learning needs, Hearing and Visual Impairment, English as an additional Language, Highly able children, Looked after Children, Travelling communities to name a few.

“However, meeting these needs becomes increasingly difficult when the additional resources that are necessary to support all children just aren’t available. When we see cuts to Classroom Assistants, Support for Learning Workers, Teachers, Psychologists, Speech Therapists and the closure of specialist support units the impact of these reduces our ability to support all children reach their full potential and to closing the attainment gap”, she told delegates.

“If the government is serious about reducing the attainment gap if they want a first class education system then they must provide the additional resources needed to fully support all our children taking account of their individual level of need. Then we would really be Getting it Right for Every Child.”

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