Budget cuts will hit rural pupils hardest

Parents have hit out at proposed school budget cuts which could hit rural schools hardest.

Monday, 25th January 2021, 12:28 pm
Updated Monday, 25th January 2021, 12:30 pm
South Lanarkshire Council is currently deciding its budget cuts

Councillors are currently considering whether or not to cut early years teachers, janitorial provision, school transport, breakfast clubs and holiday lunch clubs as it aims to plug a budget gap of over £11m.

Pamela Kerr of Dalserf Primary Parent Council said: “The fact this is rearing its ugly head again, it’s just not going to be beneficial for the school. Once again, rural schools are being targeted.”

Dalserf and Netherburn primaries are two of the seven schools which fought last year to save the schools’ janitors from the cuts.

The same proposals are being made this year which would see part-time janitorial arrangements brought in to each school because they have less than 100 primary pupils.

Vice-chair of Netherburn Primary Parent Council, Kirsty Whitelaw, was angered as she felt the school was being unfairly targeted.

She said: “We have 94 children in the school but we also have 37 children in the combined nursery so we don’t think that we should even be part of the cuts. The nursery class doesn’t seem to be included in the 100 children.

“The proposed cuts shouldn’t be affecting Netherburn because we have over and above the pupil count.

“He is the only male role model within the school and we live in a deprived area so there are a lot of single parents.

“The janitor runs the football and the fitness, he is a key part of a lot of children’s lives. He’s not just the janitor within the school.”

Pamela added: “It’s going to affect us in the same way it would have last year. The janitors have not had any work taken away from them, they’ve actually got additional work because of the pandemic.

“They have to clean touch points at specific times of the day and more than once during the day.

“We still vehemently disagree with it and we don’t want it to happen because it will be detrimental to the children.

“Even more so now that their safety in school is paramount during the unprecedented times we’re facing.”

Cuts to school transport would see the distance which eligible pupils live from school increase from one mile to two for primary and from two miles to three for secondary.

Although it wouldn’t affect her personally, Pamela was disappointed some children at Dalserf may no longer be eligible.

She said: “That proposal will affect several children in the school who live down the Clydeside because they are more than a mile away. It’ll be about half a dozen children. That’s ludicrous that they are even suggesting that.”

The nursery class at Netherburn Primary serves both communities and parents were concerned that the loss of a nursery teacher could affect the number of places available.

Suzanne Wright’s daughter attends the nursery and she said: “That will affect my wee girl, she’s at nursery just now. We’ve already lost the 1140 hours because of Covid so she’s only part time just now.

“She’s expected to move up to primary one from a part time role and to go to a class with 25 kids in it.

“I think it’s unbelievable to expect a child to go in with 25 kids when she’s not already getting 1140 hours due to Covid.

“Losing a nursery teacher is a big hit for a wee school. These cut backs shouldn’t happen, the community and the kids have been affected enough.

“It means if someone has got a child at school and a child at nursery, potentially they will be on a bus four times a day. Those bus fares are going to affect that family financially.”

Last year saw the full roll out of the council’s flagship breakfast clubs following a successful pilot and Dalserf Primary was one of the schools to benefit.

Pamela added: “Our breakfast club has been beneficial to many children within the village and surrounding area because it guarantees them a breakfast.”

Netherburn’s breakfast club is run by the Machan Trust and it is understood that it would be unaffected by the proposed cuts.

A spokesperson for South Lanarkshire Council said: “At a special meeting of the executive committee on January 13 a number of options were presented to elected members for their consideration to enable the council to meet its obligation to balance its budget.

“Members agreed to defer all the recommendations until the full council can meet although it was noted that a working group has been set up to allow political leaders the opportunity to engage in cross-party discussions on the savings options.

“Over the coming weeks the council will continue to gather and feedback the views of local people and businesses as it seeks to plug a budget gap currently estimated at £11.8m, but which could potentially be reduced to under £5m.

“We have published details of a variety of savings options that can be considered while continuing to protect key frontline services.

“There is an easy-to-use survey and other ways local people can have their say on these options, and we would encourage everyone to take part.

“These responses will subsequently be shared with all 64 elected members as they consider the options ahead of the decision-making full council meeting, which is likely to be held in late February.”