This article appears as part of the Lessons to Learn newsletter.

Ever since the council budget passed in February, we have been bringing you the latest developments around plans to slash teacher numbers in Glasgow.

Here’s the deal: Glasgow City Council is facing a massive budget black hole, and in an attempt to fill it, officials have had to consider things that, until recently, would have been seen as entirely unacceptable.

For years, councils have tried to protect teacher numbers – in no small part because of pressure from central government – and broader education spending, but there was always going to come a time when they would run out of that particular road. That’s where we are now.

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Indeed, when I spoke to the council’s education convener a few months back, she argued that they had been left with no other choice but to look at cuts to teacher numbers, telling me that there was “just no other way to slice it this year.”

Basically, the situation is so dire that money will now have to be found from education budgets – specifically, from the salaries paid to people working in education.

The result? An SNP-Green budget deal that would see 450 teaching posts in Glasgow cut over three years. For context, that’s nearly 10% of the city’s teachers disappearing from classrooms.

If that sounds brutal, it is.

If it sounds like something that would have a massive negative impact on the most vulnerable young people in some of the most deprived parts of Scotland, you’re absolutely spot on.

Once the budget was passed there was lots of talk about any changes having to go through a political oversight group before being approved, but the reality is that the first round of teacher cuts – a loss of 172 posts – has already been carried out for the coming academic year. Once that budget was passed, politicians were effectively demanding a large financial saving by August of this year, and to deliver that from the education budget work had to start pretty much immediately. Maybe councillors genuinely didn’t understand that (I honestly wouldn’t be surprised) but ignorance is no excuse.

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As a consequence, therefore, of political choices, up to 45 schools face having only the headteacher out of class for some or all of the week, a situation that has prompted major concerns about things like ASN provision, teacher workload, parental engagement and pupil safety. In response the council said that probationers were still to be allocated to schools, but using unqualified teachers in this way is, at best, a questionable move.

(Image: Derek McArthur)
And this, we should remember, is just the start. There are hundreds of posts still to be cut over the next couple of years. When all is said and done, the impact on schools, parents and, above all, pupils could be utterly devastating – and as always, those with least will suffer most.

Parents have protested against the plans, holding a number of demonstrations in Glasgow that have attracted significant media attention. The Glasgow City Parents Groups is also planning a March for Education on the 24th of June in an effort to force a reversal of the proposed cuts.

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As for teachers themselves, they have now overwhelmingly (and entirely unsurprisingly) backed industrial action in response to the council’s plans. Members of the Glasgow branch of the EIS voted in favour of strikes, and members of the AHDS, which represents headteachers, have done the same. It’s one thing for classroom teachers to be willing to walk out in protest, but in its nearly 50 year history the AHDS has only engaged in such action on two occasions, and their General Secretary says that the result “leaves the strength of feeling amongst our members in no doubt”.

So – what now?

Well that’s the big question.

For all the warm words of SNP and Green councillors, there is absolutely no sign that the council plans to change course, at least not without a major injection of new cash. Some have said that this might be achieved through ‘revenue raising’ tactics but, to be blunt, this just comes across as somewhere between delusion and dishonesty from the very people who apparently didn’t fully understand what they were voting for in February.

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The chances of the Scottish Government finding the money that councils need appear to be effectively zero, especially when you remember that ministers are currently standing back and allowing the college sector to fall further and further into crisis.

It is possible that the inevitable new Labour government could hand more money either to the Scottish Government or even to councils themselves, but Starmer’s track record means that’s one to file in the ‘believe it when you actually see it’ section.

But unless something happens, we can safely say that the days of education being a priority are well and truly over.