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Angry parents slam teacher policy

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By Fiona Reid
Angry parents slam teacher policy

PARENTS have expressed ‘grave concerns’ about a council cap on teacher numbers at small primary schools.

And a campaign is being rolled out, with a joint meeting of parent councils held on Wednesday night.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has changed the staffing threshold for primary schools so that the teacher:pupil ratio is extended from a maximum of 19 to 25 pupils covering P1–P7 .

The move has upset many families locally and a survey of parents at 21 schools found that 98 per cent believe that one teacher having responsibility for the education of up to 25 pupils across P1-7 would have a negative impact on their child’s development and education; and 81 per cent would consider leaving the school if this happened.

Furthermore, a staff survey revealed that more than 90 per cent agreed the changes would be detrimental to education and development and said they would consider leaving their post if it happened in their school.

Nethermill Primary parent teacher council chairwoman Lindsay McMahon convened this week’s meeting.

She said: “As parents we are gravely concerned about the implications of this change on the development and education of our children.

“Expecting one teacher to manage a school of 25 pupils with such vast needs and learning demands is simply too much.

“The implications for this policy are huge. Staff retention, child development, anxiety, pupil and staff support would all be greatly affected.”

She accused the council of bringing in the change for financial reasons and revealed that a freedom of information request has shown Dumfries and Galloway is the only local authority in Scotland implementing the 25 threshold.

Lindsay added: “Throughout Scotland this threshold ranges from as low as 15-19, but as part of cost-cutting budgets our council has raised this to 25, the legal limit for a composite class set by the Scottish Government.

“This means many of the small rural schools with a two teacher base are constantly under threat of being made one teacher schools. Parents believe this is unfair and detrimental for pupils and staff in our smaller schools.”

Lindsay stressed that the composite class size is only meant to be guidance, with most Scottish local authorities implementing it just across composite classes with two age ranges. Nethermill Parent Council are gathering evidence to ask the Scottish Government to be more specific in their guidance, with particular reference to small rural schools.

Lindsay added: “The suggestion is also once the school roll gets down to 25 then it is capped, thus potentially preventing siblings or non catchment children from gaining places. This has already happened at Nethermill.

“In total, 21 schools across Dumfries and Galloway have an active interest in this campaign and some fear this is just another back door closure policy for rural schools.”

Dumfries and West, Front

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