Jenny Marra MSP - Early Years Practitioners : It’s wrong to offset cuts in this way


 

18 February 2014

  

Last week the Scottish Parliament was in recess so I went down to Dundee City Chambers to see our Council pass its annual budget. £7m of cuts were doled out.

All council departments had to find savings. I was particularly concerned about cuts to Dundee’s education budget – to support literacy and numeracy.

These cuts come only weeks after Dundee was found in a Government report to again have some of the worst attainment, attendance and schools exclusion rates in Scotland.

I went along to support a group of women who do vital work with children in primaries one and two in Dundee, helping the children to read, write and count.

These women, called Early Years’ Practitioners, are employed in 22 primary schools in the city that have the highest levels of deprivation.

The EYPs, as they call themselves, are qualified to HNC levels in Education and are trained to deliver Dundee City Council’s flagship literacy programme Read, Write Inc. which demands one to one support for children aged 5 and 6 learning to read and write.

But last week’s budget saw the EYPs taken out of our primary schools and moved into nursery schools.

This is to meet the Scottish Government’s new pledge for 600 hours of childcare which will become law in Holyrood tomorrow.

But the rub is this: the Scottish Government is giving councils money to pay for the additional hours of childcare - £41m across Scotland next year.

So Dundee City Council is receiving its share of the cash to pay for childcare but is using it to make savings, or subsidising cuts elsewhere, by moving existing staff to cover the new pledge.

So they are robbing Peter to pay Paul.

More hours of childcare, but what the SNP won’t tell you is that in Dundee it comes at the cost of literacy support in our primary schools.

There are good arguments against cuts in all council departments.

But education in Dundee?

Literacy?

Numeracy?

All the evidence shows that investment in early years is absolutely critical.

The Director of Education said that he was just making the early years’ support earlier by moving it down to nursery schools.

But not all children attend nursery. 

It is not compulsory.

And the EYPs will tell you that they are not allowed to show children in nurseries how to hold a pencil – so where does the literacy support go?

It disappears and becomes childcare.

It is disingenuous to pass a flagship childcare law in the Scottish Parliament but then allow local councils to use the allocated money to pay for cuts elsewhere.

600 hours childcare will be a boost to many, but in Dundee the SNP is allowing it to come at the cost of critical literacy support in schools.

This is the story we don’t hear but it is the story that the EYPs, the teachers, and the parents know to be true.

Money coming from central government to pay for new initiatives like the childcare pledge is being swallowed up by hard strapped councils like ours, and the consequences are unforeseen and long lasting – child literacy.

Dundee’s SNP should spend the money given to them by the Scottish Government on the childcare pledge it was intended for and keep the EYPs in the classroom where they belong.


Jenny's article first appeared in the Dundee "Courier" (link)

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