Over two-thirds of councils have cut real spending since 2010-11, new figures obtained by Tes Scotlandshow.
The figures, compiled by the councils, show that even with the money being pumped into local authorities by the Scottish government to boost disadvantaged pupils’ attainment, 23 of the 32 councils have cut their spending on education in real terms since 2010-11. One council, Shetland, has cut its spending by a fifth.
Nine councils have cut their real-terms spending by around 10 per cent, ranging from 11.4 per cent in East Dunbartonshire to 8.4 per cent in North Ayrshire, according to the figures collated by the Improvement Service, a local government organisation. The smallest real-terms cut was 1.9 per cent, in Falkirk.
There has been a real-terms rise in education spending in nine councils, with the most significant increase in Perth and Kinross, which invested 7.8 per cent more in real terms in 2016-17 than in 2010-11.
The figures emerged as the Scottish government this week celebrated 2016-17 education spending that, in real terms, was 2.3 per cent higher than in 2014-15, it said.
However, even with the Scottish Attainment Challenge money, most authorities are spending less in real terms than they did six years ago. Stephen McCabe, children and young people spokesman for councils umbrella body Cosla, says this is “undoubtedly” the case, given the pressure on local budgets in recent years. However, he adds that overall councils are still performing well.
Responding to the figures, the EIS teaching union has reiterated its calls for education budgets to be ring-fenced and for a national staffing formula for schools. It says the figures show “significant variance” in education investment across local authorities and “an emerging postcode lottery of provision”.
There has been a gradual “drip, drip” of money out of education and now it is starting to affect “core services”, such as school libraries, says Jim Thewliss, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland.
“That will have a direct impact on attainment, especially for kids who come from deprived backgrounds,” he adds.
A Scottish Government spokesman says the budget passed by the Scottish Parliament last week will deliver a real-terms increase in next year’s council funding.
He adds: “The latest Scottish Local Government Finance Statistics show local authority expenditure on education increased from £4.946 billion in 2015-16 to £5.070 billion in 2016-17.
“This is the second year in a row local authority education expenditure has seen a real terms increase with spending now 2.3 per cent higher than in 2014-15 in real terms – a cash terms increase of 5.3 per cent.”