Glasgow Save our Schools Campaign
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Reducing class sizes would be ‘irresponsible’ Glasgow City Council
Outrage as Glasgow city council claims reducing class sizes would be ‘irresponsible’ Glasgow City Council has said that reducing class sizes in Scottish schools is an "irresponsible" policy, provoking widespread condemnation and incredulity.
The city's largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), said the council's statement showed "contempt" for its teachers and warned it could lead to a breakdown in co-operation over the controversial schools closure programme. The SNP government said Glasgow's position was "outrageous" and in blatant denial of academic evidence.The Labour-led council's stance is also counter to the official position
of the Scottish Labour Party on the issue, as it supports a reduction in class sizes.
The row comes after Councillor Jonathan Findlay, executive member for education, explained the city's policy.
He told the Sunday Herald: "In Glasgow we are not intending to cut class sizes, not only because it would cost millions upon millions of pounds to do so, but because it is an irresponsible policy.
"Our own independent education commission has provided us with compelling evidence that cutting classes to 18 will do nothing to further the literacy and numeracy skills of our young children."
He highlighted the council's alternative system of "nurture classes" for children in early-years primary classes who need the most help. He estimated the cost of introducing class sizes of 18 into the city would be £47 million, equivalent to six new primary schools.
Previously the council said its refusal to seek to reduce class sizes was due to financial constraints. Now, though, it appears to be openly hostile to the policy as a matter of principle.
The Scottish government wants to reduce class sizes to 18 for the first three years of primary school. It argues that smaller classes mean better teaching, more personalised learning and more attention paid to children with individual needs. Progress has been slow, however. Figures in February revealed that only 18% of primary-one to primary-three classes in Scotland were meeting the target. In Glasgow the average class size for the first three years of primary is 21.
A senior SNP source said the Scottish government was angry at Glasgow City Council's position and branded the comments "a disgrace", accusing councillors of openly playing politics with education. He said: "Glasgow has finally let the cat out of the bag. Their opposition to the government's education policies has nothing to do with finance and everything to do with politics. They are allowing their hostility to the SNP to damage the educational prospects of the children of Glasgow."
Willie Hart, secretary of the Glasgow branch of the EIS, which represents 80% of Glasgow's teachers, challenged the council to speak to any teacher in the city about reducing class sizes.
He said the "overwhelming majority" think it is a good idea. "If that is the position - as blunt as that, saying it is irresponsible - it will be extremely difficult for us to have a good working relationship. It is flying in the face of the views of almost all active professionals who deliver the service. It shows contempt for their staff. It is highly disappointing. And I hope the government steps in and says it is unacceptable.
"If the council is saying, We don't care about reducing class sizes,' that will prejudice our approach to their school closure programme." EIS has so far not made an issue over the council's proposals to close 25 primary and nursery schools.
Scottish Labour confirmed it is in favour of reducing class sizes nationally, potentially putting it at loggerheads with the city council. Education spokeswoman Rhona Brankin MSP, however, said Glasgow City Council had to make its own choices and accused the government of making demands without providing any funding.
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council supports Glasgow's stance, however. Judith Gillespie, its development manager, said: "A smaller class policy has on the whole the biggest disruptive effect on schools that are doing well and have full classes. What you have to do with these schools to force classes down to 18 is not to spend money on teachers but on classrooms."
10:54pm Saturday 4th April 2009
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