Teaching exodus approved as nursery charges considered

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Scottish Borders Council has unanimously approved the departure of 28 secondary and 10 primary teachers over the next 15 months – with most set to leave at the end of the current session.

Aged between 54 and 62, the 38 were selected from 102 teachers who, between January and March this year, expressed an interest in taking early retirement or voluntary severance. A further 15 members of the local authority’s non-teaching staff – out of 34 who expressed an interest and aged 51 to 61 – have also been given the green light to go.

The exodus had been recommended in two reports at last week’s full council meeting and was approved.

Noting that all departing teachers would be replaced, Councillor Michelle Ballantyne, leader of the Tory opposition group at SBC, said: “I have been critical in the past of such deals as an effective way of reducing our workforce, but I believe this is good practice which will really help move our schools forward.”

The cost to the council of the teacher deals will be £749,539 for 27 severance packages, although this will be recouped in wage savings after an average of 18 months. A further £48,201 will be spent on 11 compensatory pension payments.

Losing the 15 non-teaching staff will involve one-off costs of £516,051, allowing the council to make future annual savings of £320,763 on salaries. The chosen ones include a 59-year-old librarian, a 57-year-old chief officer and a 52-year-old janitor.

Thursday’s meeting also heard that SBC was considering charging pre-school children who live in Midlothian and East Lothian for nursery placements in the Borders.

However, Councillor Sandy Aitchison, executive member for education, said that would not affect the free reciprocal arrangement which already exists with these council areas for “cross-border” primary and secondary placements. He explained that the receiving schools in the Borders tended to be on the periphery of the region and remote by nature, including Heriot (neighbouring Midlothian) and Cockburnspath (East Lothian).

“I am a great believer that, particularly in our more remote schools, children learn from their interaction with other children, both in the classroom and in the playground, and having classmates from outwith their own settlements can enhance that positive experience,” said Mr Aitchison.

“Any costs met by Scottish Borders Council – and I believe they are negligible – are more than outweighed by the benefits to our youngsters.”