Moray Council will spend £50,000 on consultants to help introduce a digital strategy in schools to improve curriculum choice and raise pupil attainment.
Cash will come from the transformation budget for improvements to services across the local authority.
But at a meeting of the education, children’s and leisure committee today concerns were raised money was supposed to go directly towards improving exam results and providing pupils with more subjects to pick from, and not on digital improvements.
Consultants will work with education and ICT officers on how best to come up with and rollout a digital strategy.
Conservative councillor for Elgin North Frank Brown put forward a motion to agree the funding but for it to come out of Covid reserves.
He also suggested the option of taking the £50,000 from general reserves, but was advised there was no finds available from that pot.
Mr Brown said: “I fully support the project. What I don’t support is where it’s being funded from. I don’t think we should fund this from a budget that is intended for attainment.”
He backed up his move by saying the SNP administration was willing to use £7 million of Covid reserves to “prop up” the budget for the next financial year.
Conservative councillor for Forres Claire Feaver seconded the motion over concerns the money was for widening the curriculum and improving attainment.
She said: “This is a bit like putting the cart before the horse. We don’t have the strategy in place on how we’re going to raise attainment.
“Flinging this at it goes against the grain for me.”
SNP councillor for Elgin South Graham Leadbitter believed the digital strategy was central to improving results and subject availability.
He said: “It’s difficult to provide the level of choice that councillor Brown, I and other councillors would like to see in the curriculum unless we get this right.
“I don’t agree this should come out of Covid reserves.”
Mr Leadbitter put forward an amendment to agree the £50,000 for the specialist consultants come out of the transformation budget.
He was seconded by SNP Buckie councillor Sonya Warren.
Secondary schools representative Susan Slater said the digital improvement plans went “hand-in-hand” with measures to improve curriculum choice and attainment, but it was important to get the strategy right.
Digital strategy goes ‘hand in hand’ with raising attainment in schools
Independent councillor for Forres George Alexander said: “We’ve heard a lot of references to horses and carts. I would say the cart has been in front of the horse as far as IT and schools have been concerned for years, and this is an effort to put the horse in front of the cart. Where the money comes from doesn’t bother me.”
The amendment was carried by six votes to five.
Following preliminary work, one firm capable of carrying out the work has been identified.
It had been hoped a report on the digital strategy in schools would come to members before the end of the current council term, but that time frame has slipped.