Labour councillors in Glasgow have failed in an attempt to block major cuts to a celebrated pupil mentoring scheme.

A vote on the plans, which would see a 50% staffing cut to the MCR Pathways programme, took place at today’s full council session. The cut has been proposed by the ruling SNP group and supported by the Scottish Greens, despite an admission that a full assessment of the impact on vulnerable pupils has yet been carried out.

Schools have also been told that they will have to use anti-poverty money – known as Pupil Equity Funding – if they wish to mitigate the reduction in provision.

Responding to The Herald’s original reporting of the plans, Glasgow Greens education spokesperson Blair Anderson claimed that there will be “no reduction in the number of children receiving that one-to-one mentoring support” as a result of the cut, but when asked to provide evidence for this position neither the Greens nor the SNP were able to do so.

The EIS teaching union and the Glasgow City Parents Group have already hit out at the plans, which the latter described as setting a “dangerous precedent for the future of education in Glasgow.”

The Herald understands that around 2,000 young people per year have benefitted from the MCR Pathways scheme, and that those close to the service believe the planned staffing cut will reduce the support available to pupils.

An amendment by the Labour group on Glasgow City Council proposed that “full funding” for the programme is provided for the 2024-25 academic year, providing time for a “full-service review of all programmes running in the city”. This, Labour believed, would “ensure that no child is receiving less support because of these changes.”

The amendment paper argued that not enough had been done “to safeguard the educational needs of our children and ensure that the life changing mentoring programme of MCR pathways is delivered to those most in need.”

It went on to confirm that Labour was seeking “to delay any immediate changes to service to allow for a proper and full-service review including a full EQIA, consultation with trade unions, parents’ groups, MCR pathway co-ordinators and the young people who currently are benefitting from the service.”

However, the amendment was rejected during today's council session. Instead, the ruling SNP group accepted an amendment from the Greens which backed the original cuts proposal while calling for "regular monitoring and evaluation" of the new arrangements.

The Green amendment also states that council officers provided an "assurance" that "they foresee no reduction in the number of children receiving one-to-one mentoring." The Herald understands  that this information was provided verbally to members of the political oversight group.

Leanne McGuire, Chair of the Glasgow City Parents Group, hit out at the decision to go ahead with the cuts:

"Given the lack of evidence on how halving this service will affect our young people, a delay is essential to fully explore its impact and consider any potential harm to our most vulnerable. There is no need to rush this decision without a clear understanding of the consequences and without conducting an equality impact assessment."

Labour’s spokesperson for Education, Cllr Jill Pidgeon said:

“It’s hugely disappointing that the administration and Green group have forced this through.

“Our amendment came after discussion with key stakeholders to try and ensure that the transformational change that MCR pathways offer is not compromised for the city’s most vulnerable children.

“This rushed service review didn’t consult properly and gave no oversight as to what partner groups would pick up the work that will be cut due to this budget decision.

“There was time in the budget to do this, secure the full time posts for our tremendous MCR co-ordinators for a year and proceed with a full review so that what would be delivered for our young people was fit and proper.

“This just isn’t. Shame on the councillors that voted for this.”

SNP Councillor Christina Cannon, the City Convener for Education and Early Years, said:

"We were not in a position to accept the Labour amendment as it would have provided significant uncertainty to staff. Our proposal maintains the 1 to 1 mentoring service in every mainstream secondary school in the city. There is nothing in the Labour amendment to identify other funds or find a solution to budgetary pressures going forward - it’s just a delay for delay’s sake which is unacceptable for our schools, staff and young people.

"We don’t shy away from the fact that the budget we need to balance is extremely difficult and we never have. The review was comprehensive and the option that was proposed balances the need to deliver the most efficient service and maintain the mentoring service. Regardless of our budgetary issues, MCR pathways will continue in every single mainstream secondary school in Glasgow. We are committed to working with partners to ensure the successful delivery of the new model of the MCR programme and maintaining a good relationship with the organisation going forward."

Responding for the Glasgow Greens, Cllr Jon Molyneux said:

“Green councillors tabled an amendment which ensured that one-to-one mentoring support, which is the core of the MCR Pathways programme, can continue in every mainstream secondary school in Glasgow, with no reduction in the level of that support. Young people who will benefit from mentor relationships will continue to have that opportunity.

“After 10 years, this was the right time to review the MCR Pathways service, especially in context of other programmes which have emerged in that time. Undertaking this review in order to give certainty to schools and staff before schools break up for the summer has taken a huge effort from officers and partners. Green councillors have worked hard to interrogate different options and engage with partners. For Labour councillors who have not engaged seriously with this work to propose a eleventh-hour delay is frankly an insult to those who have put in hard work, and would just create unnecessary extra stress and uncertainty for staff and schools at the worst possible time.”

Responding to the proposals for cuts to the scheme, a spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “The options have been developed in consultation with schools and seek to reflect their priorities, across all pathway support for young people – as well as changes that have taken place in schools since the initial introduction of the scheme.”