Nursery school teachers could face axe in council cutbacks

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Edinburgh’s nursery school teachers could be replaced by early years practitioners in a council bid to save millions of pounds.

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Council proposals include replacing nursery school teachers with early years practitioners (photo posed by models)

In its budget proposals, currently out for consultation, the City of Edinburgh Council proposes moving teachers from its nursery schools to fill primary school vacancies.

Currently, all nursery schools in Edinburgh employ at least one qualified teacher.

The nursery teachers would be replaced by early years practitioners. Some nursery teachers would be retained in each of the city’s four localities to provide support.

The council points to findings from the Care Inspectorate that having qualified teaching staff in settings, as opposed to supporting settings, makes no impact on quality.

Other plans include replacing headteachers in individual nursery schools with the local primary headteacher.

The proposed changes would take effect from September.

The council’s deputy leader Cammy Day said, ‘The reality is that our draft financial settlement from the Scottish Government is worse than we expected, and we need to make an unprecedented level of cuts to our services. The only way to do this is by prioritising our front-line services, generating greater income and setting a fair, balanced budget which promotes inclusivity and protects the most vulnerable in society.

‘That said, I call on the Scottish Government to properly resource needs of local government and health and social care, we will continue to meet with government ministers and MSPs from across all parties to help them better understand the impact on our services and to push for a fairer and more proportionate settlement for our capital city.’

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union said it had ‘real concerns’ about the proposals.

Alison Murphy, secretary of the Edinburgh branch, said, ‘While we appreciate the huge budgetary pressures Edinburgh Council is under, we are strongly of the view that this is a short-sighted cut that is likely, over the long term, to actually cost the council more money. 

‘We refute the idea that having nursery teachers working in an individual setting has no impact on the quality of the educational provision. Nursery teachers have expert level insight into the cognitive and pedagogical development of children, and how best to help children to become “school-ready”.  This is something that can only happen when a nursery teacher works closely with a class of children, and the associated early years practitioners, over extended periods of time. 

‘The idea that nursery teachers acting as “consultants” to a range of different classes in different settings would support children to anything like the same extent is clearly not credible. The result will be many children, especially the most vulnerable, being less ready and able to make the transition to school, and the long-terms financial and social costs of this are, I hope, obvious.  It certainly undermines the drive to close the attainment gap, and to promote equity of educational outcomes.’

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