Parent Council response to cuts

Tuesday November 28th 2017

Kings Park Primary School

King’s Park Primary School Parent Council have written this open letter to Councillors and Officers regarding the proposed budget cuts.

Dear Councillors and Officers

We write on behalf of King’s Park Parent Council in response to Midlothian Council’s proposed budget cuts for 2018/19 to 2021/2022. We are most concerned about the cuts that will affect the most vulnerable children in our community.

The Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) approach has been the national policy in Scotland since 2010 that puts the rights and wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of services that support them. Many of these proposed cuts contradict this approach.

Council and Government both have a responsibility to support children and young people in accordance with GIRFEC and the Children and Young People Act (Scotland) 2014.

We strongly oppose cuts to:

Early Intervention and Sure Start – Cutting Early Intervention services and Sure Start will lead to the youngest children falling through the safety net before they even reach school. Studies show the wider value, and longer-term cost savings, of early intervention. The knock-on impact for our school will be a more challenging teaching environment and increased pressure on vital support staff such as Learning Assistants who are also targeted.

Learning Assistants – Cutting Learning Assistants removes a vital support from some of the most vulnerable pupils in our school. Children with Additional Support Needs rely on this service. Learning Assistants improve attainment across the whole class. Teachers cannot teach a class where they have a child or children who is not getting the support they need. The Council already cannot meet its requirements on inclusion of all pupils without sufficient Learning Assistants.

Libraries – Closing local libraries starves children of a vital opportunity to access not only books, but computers, activities such as coding workshops, and a free, safe space. To date, 1429 people in Midlothian have signed a petition against library closures (at 27 Nov 2017).

Free instrumental tuition – Learning a musical instrument, and playing it with others, has huge benefits for building community, developing social skills, improving maths skills and improving mental health. Although the most disadvantaged will still be eligible for free tuition, there are many families who will not qualify and will not be able to afford the fees.  To date, 2410 people in Midlothian have signed a petition against cutting free instrumental tuition (at 27 Nov 2017)

Many of the other cuts proposed will erode the quality of children’s experience at school:

Cuts to janitorial staff – Schools depend on their janitors; they are a valuable part of the team that makes the school a community. In many cases, they show a loyalty that goes beyond their remit. The King’s Park buildings are old and require ongoing maintenance.

Cuts to school crossing service – At King’s Park Primary we have worked hard to encourage children to walk to school. Cutting the crossing services makes this more dangerous and will only serve to discourage active travel to school. Disabled pupils and parents rely on this service.

Increasing charges for school meals will hit those who do not qualify for free schools meals, but who cannot afford to pay, the hardest. These are the children who will not get something hot to eat on a cold day. School meal provision should reflect Eating Better Living Better guidance.

These are all the cuts which will impact on children and young people:

  1. Reduce Early Intervention and Prevention Services
  2. Reduce Learning Assistants by 10%
  3. Review Surestart contracts
  4. Reduce lifelong learning and Employability
  5. Reduce DSM carry-forward allowance
  6. Charging for instrumental tuition
  7. Review charges for after school clubs
  8. Integration of Pathways, Pave and Pave 2
  9. Reduce the number of grass football and astro pitches
  10. Reduction of library services
  11. Removal of the non statutory school crossing service
  12. Increasing the charge for school meals
  13. Reduction of high school lunch provision to ‘soup and a sandwich’
  14. Reduction in janitorial services
  15. Increase sport and leisure fees and charges
  16. Stopping sporting grants
  17. Reducing lifeguard cover at pools

This is an unacceptable and punitive erosion of education and opportunity for our children.

What we would like you to do:

  • Thoroughly assess the risks of each of the 17 cuts listed above.
  • Devise full and comprehensive mitigation plans for the cuts that are agreed by Councillors.
  • Publish and advertise the cuts that go ahead, including risk and mitigation, in plain English.
  • Talk with people about the impact and share ideas about how it could be minimised.
  • Do this, not in the Council building, but in the community, at community groups, at supermarkets, Job Centres, Post Offices and schools.
  • We would like you to meet with all the MSPs who represent our area and ask them to oppose the cuts proposed to Local Authority funding by the Scottish Government.

In light of increased population growth, high levels of deprivation and demand on services for children and young people, we want to see Midlothian Council take a resolute stand against these cuts.

Yours sincerely,

King’s Park Primary School Parent Council

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