Around 800 teaching jobs in Glasgow could be at risk if proposals put forward for cutting costs are approved.
The changes have been set forth by officers but have not yet been given the greenlight by elected members of the SNP-run council
The measures, contained in a leaked document shared with the Daily Record newspaper, also include considering shutting primary schools early on Fridays in a bid to save £51m from its education budget.
Teaching unions say they are “deeply worried” about the proposals, with the EIS – the country’s largest union – saying it would be “simply impossible for education in Glasgow to function with the level of cuts proposed”.
Following news of the proposals, Nicola Sturgeon responded during First Minister’s Questions saying she would prefer to have “more teachers, not fewer”.
Glasgow City Council is currently facing a £68m shortfall for the coming year and it due to set out its budget next month.
In a letter to Glasgow City Council of Wednesday, seen by STV News, Susan Quinn, education convener and secretary of Glasgow EIS, raised concerns about the plan for cuts of up to £51m to education services.
It reads: “The loss of nurture teachers would have a terrible effect on children who enter primary school already struggling to cope for a variety of reasons who are supported in small groups by highly trained nurture teachers and support staff. If this service is cut they will find themselves struggling to cope in large classrooms which is something that will have a negative effect on them and on others in the class who will have less access to their teacher.”
It also said cuts to education staffing would have “not only an immediate but also long-term effect on the life opportunities of our families.”
The education proposals leaked to the Daily Record on Thursday say £22.5m could be saved by revising staffing at both primary and secondary schools.
The changes, if approved, would affect pupil to teacher ratios and lead to a higher number of composite classes affected 397 teaching posts.
Cutting further teachers by closing early on Fridays would affect a further 324 roles and save £18.5m, according to the leaked information.
If all the options for cuts came into force, around 800 teaching posts would be at risk, as would the roles of more than 100 “support for learning” staff.
In response to the latest proposals, Quinn said on behalf of the EIS in Glasgow: “Cuts to education are unacceptable at any time, but even more so when schools are focused on supporting education recovery for young people. It would be simply impossible for education in Glasgow to function with the level of cuts proposed.
“The proposed deep reductions in staffing – equivalent to over 12% of teachers – would mean deep cuts to Nurture, EAL and promoted posts across all sectors of education. These cuts would have a clear detrimental impact on the education of many young people living in areas of high deprivation, with serious and long-lasting consequences for their life chances.
“Education needs more funding, not less, and the council and Scottish Government both must take responsibility for ensuring that education is protected and properly resourced.”
Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association union, said young people need more support, not less, as they deal with the impact of the pandemic on their education.
He said: “If you start cutting back the number of teachers, you are really damaging education. After the pandemic we are still in the stage of recovery and a lot of youngsters have missed out on basic learning coming through.
“If you cut teachers, you are cutting young people’s life chances down.”
When asked by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross about the proposals, Sturgeon said: “This, of course, is that time of year when we get lots of reports about savings options that different councils are considering and opposition parties – quite understandably – make hay with that, but very often these proposals do not proceed.
“I think the official report of Parliament will be littered with examples of what I’ve just spoken about.
“In terms of these particular proposals, I’ve not seen the detail of these.
“Councils of course are autonomous in their areas of responsibility, something that parties across this chamber often call on the Scottish Government to respect.
“But as my record shows and indeed as Government’s funding to councils demonstrates, I am in favour of more teachers, not fewer teachers.”
In response, Ross said: “I’m deeply worried that one of the biggest councils in Scotland is considering 800 teachers being lost.”
Sturgeon said the Scottish Government has provided a real terms increase of £160m for local government in the budget.
But council umbrella body Cosla said last month services could be “at breaking point” and suggested the cash increase could be just £71m as a result of ring-fencing.
A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “As part of the annual budget-setting process, a cross-party group of councillors works with officers to scrutinise and develop options on where savings and investment could be considered.
“Officers also regularly update a financial forecast, taking into account inflation and the latest information on national settlements.
“The financial challenge facing the council this year is exceptionally tough, with savings of around £68m required, even before pressure on social work and care services are taken into account.
“Political groups will present their budget proposals next month and it is for them to decide whether they wish to include any of these options.”