Council Avoid Answering my Questions on Teacher Numbers in Dundee

Councillor Laurie Bidwell

16 November 2011

Late on Monday afternoon, I was notified that the item from the Agenda of the Meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee - 'Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme for Teaching Staff and Associated Professionals' had been withdrawn.

I think this is because the Administration are very reluctant to provide public answers to the questions I have been asking about maintaining teacher numbers in Dundee Schools and the financial penalties if teacher numbers are not maintained.

Councillor Guild (Leader of the Administration of the Council) has been attending Leaders' Meetings at the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).

As part of the budgetary settlement, Councillor Guild has agreed to accept the imposition of economic sanctions from the Scottish Government if teacher numbers are not maintained in return for some additional cash from the government.

But what sanctions are these and in what circumstances will they be applied?

If Councillor Guild can't declare what these will be, we would have been in danger of making a decision last night which would later not have been honoured.

This would have disappointed teachers who had been encouraged to apply for something that might not really be available.

Councillor Guild needs to give the Council the full facts before we can be confident that we have a viable early retirement scheme for teachers to approve.

His Education Convener, Councillor Fordyce also needs to be clear about what level of pupil teacher ratio she wants to protect in Dundee Schools.

Clearly they were both not prepared to provide any answers on Monday night.

Dundee parents and carers as well as Councillors deserve straight answers to these questions that will affect the schools and nurseries that their children are attending.


Before the item on teacher numbers in Dundee was withdrawn from the council agenda, Laurie Bidwell had already made this post on his blog :

"At the Policy and Resources Committee tonight, Councillors are being asked to approve a new round of enhanced early retirement for Teachers in Dundee schools.

"Judging by the interest in previous rounds of early retirements, there may well be many inquiries from serving teachers about taking up this new offer.

"But can we afford to reduce our number of serving teachers any further?

"Since this time last year we know that there are 99 fewer teachers working in our schools.

"The Director of Education's comments in the Courier last week indicate that he thinks there is scope for a further reduction in teacher numbers as we have a favourable pupil teacher ratio compared with other councils in urban areas.

"Additionally, the Scottish Government have threatened financial penalties if teacher numbers were not maintained year by year by local authorities.

"So how much lower does Councillor Ken Guild (Leader of the Council and Convener of the Finance and General Purposes Committee) think teacher numbers can fall without incurring financial penalties?

"And how much lower does Councillor Liz Fordyce (Convener of the Education Committee) think teacher numbers can fall without damaging attainment and achievement in our schools?

"I think we need reassuring answers to these questions before we can take a decision to approve this new round of early retirement of teachers.

"Anything less would I think be a gamble with the future of our children."



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