Glasgow City Council will not lose government funding issued to protect teacher numbers, despite its plans to cut up to 450 teaching positions by 2027.

The Scottish Government has so far provided local authorities with two yearly shares of a £145.5 million fund to maintain teacher numbers.

A further round of £145.5 million is planned for next year.

Glasgow City Council recently approved a controversial set of joint SNP and Scottish Greens budget proposals, which included plans to cut teacher numbers and save an estimated £27.8 million over the next three years.

This raised the question of whether the city council would lose its portion of the special Scottish Government funding, totalling £16.5 million this year, by violating an implicit agreement to protect teacher numbers.

Yet, a week after the vote, the Scottish Government told the Glasgow City Council that its portion of the funding was still safe.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told The Herald that ministers decided not to revoke the funding so that young people would not suffer the consequences of short-term financial decisions.

But there will not be as much leeway in the future.

Read more: Teachers' mounting anger as new scale of Glasgow proposed cuts revealed

In response to questions about whether the planned teacher cuts would prevent Glasgow from qualifying for the next round of funding, a government spokesperson said that the £145.5 million fund will be delivered differently next year.

“The Scottish Government is determined to close the poverty-related attainment gap and ministers are clear that this will not be achieved by councils employing fewer teachers in our schools,” the spokesperson said.

To this end, the government will distribute the next round of £145.5 million to protect teacher numbers in the form of grants to each council. To qualify, local authorities will need to meet the conditions set by the government, including maintaining their teacher numbers.

The Herald: Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth previously warned councils that they could lose funding if teacher numbers drop. She has since sent assurances that this year's funding is safe, but there will be tighter regulation in the futureEducation Secretary Jenny Gilruth previously warned councils that they could lose funding if teacher numbers drop. She has since sent assurances that this year's funding is safe, but there will be tighter regulation in the future (Image: PA)

Council compliance will be measured based on the Scottish Government's year-end school census, which reports whether teacher numbers have gone up or down in each local authority.

Because the funding will be more strictly ring-fenced beginning in 2024/25, it is also unclear if Glasgow's three-year plan for cutting teacher numbers will eventually drag it back into the line of fire.

This response echoes the most recent message from Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth, who wrote to all local authorities in February to say that, although there would not be consequences for this year's teacher numbers, next year could be different.

"I do not believe that it will be in the best interests of school pupils for us to withhold funding at this stage in the financial year," she wrote.

But she added: "Under the current provisions, we have witnessed two successive years of falls in relation to teacher numbers. In this context, it is clear to me that the status quo is not sustainable."

Ms Gilruth said that officials will inform individual councils of the grant conditions for next year, "including the number of teachers I expect to be maintained."

The government's decision to allow councils to keep their share of this year's £145.5 million – even if their teacher numbers fell – is a stark policy change.

Over the past year, Ms Gilruth and her predecessor Shirley-Anne Somerville issued multiple public warnings that local authorities risked losing their shares of this money if they did not protect teacher numbers.

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In previous presentations to members of the Scottish Parliament’s Education, Children and Young People Committee, Ms Gilruth said that she had noted a drop in teacher numbers in some local authorities and was investigating the individual circumstances to determine whether funding should be revoked.

Specifically, she said she had been in touch with four or five local authorities to discuss their recent decline in teacher numbers and the circumstances involved.

It is now clear, however, that money which has already been distributed is safe.

In addition to the government's explanation that recouping money at this stage is likely to cause more harm than good, the change in approach may also be explained by the fact that most councils have struggled to maintain teacher numbers in recent years.

Scottish Government statistics show that more than half of Scotland’s local authorities have lost teachers since 2021.

Between 2021 and 2023, 21 local authorities reported a drop in their teacher numbers. The largest declines were reported in North Lanarkshire (down 98), East Ayrshire (down 69) and Renfrewshire (down 51).

Between 2022 and 2023, 15 local authorities reported a decrease in numbers from the last year. Glasgow reported the biggest drop in that period, with a loss of 125 teachers.

That figure does not include the proposed removal of up to 450 teaching positions by 2027, which is set to begin with 172 next year.