Friday, February 04, 2011

Education in Dundee - budget concerns raised

I have today raised with Dundee City Council's Director of Education the following questions and concerns about budget proposals affecting education in Dundee :

Jim

I would be grateful if you can clarify the following questions for me as soon as possible and certainly in advance of next Thursday’s Policy & Resources Committee meeting.

a) Primary Promoted Post Structure – I note the revised proposal involves the number of Depute Head Teachers reducing by more than half (50 to 23) and that the estimated saving in 2011-12 from this aspect will be £854 000. This implies a very fast implementation in the new financial year and I would ask if you can share your implementation plan in order that I can be reassured that this matter will be handled sensitively for staff concerned. I note what you write about acting DHTs, but can you clarify exactly what you mean by “the phased redeployment of DHTs where practical”? I am sure I am not the only elected member who needs reassurance as to how the Education Department envisages implementing these proposals.

b) In 4.2.7 of that report you also indicate that the level of savings achieved by DHT removal falls short of required savings by £77 300. You therefore propose the removal of 3.2 FTE “excess teachers” in the primary sector. Can you please clarify where these posts are, how this will affect teaching and class structure at the affected schools, and how the £77 300 is calculated? Can you also give me your implementation plan so I am assured that the full £77 300 can be achieved during the 2011/12 financial year?

c) In 3.1 of this report you indicate that the savings are required “to contribute to the funding of the ‘new build’ properties at the West End, Whitfield and Balgarthno Road.” I am confused by this statement as these projects have been included in the City Council’s Capital Plan for some time and are therefore already funded. Can you please clarify?

d) Dundee Campus Proposal – I am pleased to see that the travel costs for pupils I had requested is now included in the finalised report. However, the report does not indicate how the costs of this have been calculated. Can you please advise me how the £10 000 cost in 2011/12 and £11 000 in the full year are calculated?

e) Devolved School Management. I paste below my earlier question raised via the Chief Executive and your response in red :

Devolved School Management. One of the savings assumed here is in respect of a cut in the provision for short term absences. Fraser wishes an assurance that when money runs out for an individual school, because of say an outbreak of influenza, will there be continuing support from the Education Department. How will this particular saving be achieved?

The intention is to give Head Teachers complete responsibility for the management of their staff absence budget and I shall expect them to do that to the best of their ability. The intention is that this will be part of an extended DSM scheme (to be brought in due course to Committee for approval) giving schools much more responsibility and autonomy than they have at present. However, it would be irresponsible of me as Director not to be able to respond to an emergency situation that might arise in a school, and I shall continue to do that.

As to how the saving might be achieved, we are already seeing absence cover requests decreasing, partly owing to the adoption of more robust absence management procedures, which in turn has led to a significant reduction in teacher absence levels.

I am pleased that you will respond to an emergency situation where a school's DSM budget for short term absences is exhausted. However, can you advise me from what budget this will be met?

Many thanks.

Best regards

Fraser

Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Councillor for the West End
Liberal Democrat Group Leader - Dundee City Council