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Stand up for teachers, ministers told as Labour motion highlighting cuts passed

A motion highlighting concern over possible teacher cuts was passed by MSPs (PA)
A motion highlighting concern over possible teacher cuts was passed by MSPs (PA)

Ministers were told to “stand up for teachers” after a Labour motion highlighting concern around potential teacher cuts was passed in Holyrood.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth told MSPs she would “fervently defend” the Scottish Government’s commitment to protect teacher numbers amid concern a pledge to increase jobs by 3,500 in this Parliament will not be met.

Scottish Labour forced the vote on Wednesday amid fears Glasgow City Council could cut 450 teaching jobs over the next three years.

Protests have been taking place across the city as the local authority considers plugging funding gaps by cutting 172 teaching posts this year and almost 300 in the subsequent school terms.

Leading the debate in Holyrood, Scottish Labour education spokeswoman Pam Duncan-Glancy said the “dire consequences” of falling education budgets are being seen.

Pam Duncan-Glancy
Pam Duncan-Glancy said Scotland ‘deserves better’ than teacher cuts (PA)

“Teachers now are being expected to do far more work with far less time, money and support from their Government, and I regret that we are now seeing the dire consequences of that,” she said.

“Because of the Government’s cuts to local authority budgets and their delay on reform and actions on behaviour, teachers and future teachers have become disillusioned.”

She said cuts to teacher numbers are an “abject failure” of past and present education secretaries.

“It is time to stand up for teachers and stand up for the next generation, because Scotland deserves so much better than this,” Ms Duncan-Glancy added.

The Labour motion passed by 62 votes to 61 with one abstention after the Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats supporting it, while the Education Secretary’s amendment fell after Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone used her casting vote on a tied vote.

The vote is the first parliamentary defeat for new First Minister John Swinney’s administration.

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Liam Kerr criticised the Government’s amendment as “self-congratulatory” after it noted measures to address issues in schools while removing Labour’s concerns on job losses.

Humza Yousaf visit
Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth said she is ‘clear’ schools cannot tackle the current challenges with fewer teachers (Jane Barlow/PA)

He said: “The Government’s amendment reveals a sobering truth. After 17 years and nearly a decade of pretending it’s their number one priority, there is no plan.”

Mr Kerr urged the Government to put aside “performative posturing and party politicking” to work across the chamber to improve education.

Ms Gilruth, recognising the constraints facing the Scottish Government as a minority administration, committed to hearing the suggestions of MSPs across Holyrood.

“It is in that spirit that I will listen to opposition and commit to take the necessary action required to drive improvements for Scotland’s teachers,” she said.

The former teacher told those in her previous profession: “This Government values you. I value you and the compassion which you provide to our young people every day – the extra hours, the extra care, the extra mile you go for our children makes a difference and we are lucky as a country to have you.

“I am absolutely clear that schools will not be able to respond to the challenges in our classrooms, post-pandemic, with fewer teachers.”