THE councillor responsible for education in the Borders has insisted he has no intention of reducing teacher numbers – but could not rule out future job losses should public funding be squeezed further, writes Kenny Paterson.
Sandy Aitchison sounded the warning as Scottish Borders Council prepares to make savings of £27million over the next five financial years.
Responding to a question from Councillor Gavin Logan at SBC’s final meeting of 2012, Mr Aitchison said: “It is not our intention to reduce numbers of teachers.
“In fact, at the CoSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) education meeting which I had attended we were shown figures which indicated that across Scotland the numbers remained substantially steady.
“We are certainly not budgeting for any reduction in next year’s budget.
“However, the education budget is heavily loaded on costs of personnel, teachers and support staff and it would be silly of me in the light of future budget problems, of which we are all aware, to give any firm guarantee that we would not have to look at personnel.
“But we would strive to try to avoid this in future.”
The Galashiels executive member also responded to another question from Councillor Logan on a Scottish Qualification Authority report which claimed a worrying number of Scottish students sitting Standard Grade and Higher exams had struggled with basic spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Mr Aitchison maintained exam results for 2012 show that, in fact, Borders schoolchildren were getting better at core subjects such as English.
“We agree completely that core literacy skills are essential for our young people both in terms of their own ability to communicate and learn effectively and to equip them in future career paths and employment,” he said.
“In addition, high levels of literacy are essential for the economic development of our region.
“At the secondary school level, the number of pupils attaining a Standard Grade in English and maths by the end of S4 has shown an increasing trend since 2008.
“The provisional figure for 2012 sits at 95.5 per cent – a 5.5 per cent increase over a five-year period.
“Analysis of male and female students shows a similar increasing trend with a 5.8 per cent increase in boys’ attainment and 5.1 per cent increase with girls.
“Pupil performance in English and maths in the Scottish Borders continues to sit above the Scottish average.”