Article from http://www.edexec.co.uk, February 20, 2011:
Survey discovers that more than half of all foreign language assistants in Scottish schools are facing the axe as council budgets are cut
Over half of all foreign language assistants in Scottish state schools are set to be axed following council budget cuts, according to BBC Scotland.
A survey of Scottish councils found at least 55 of the current 106 posts across the country are to go this year, with the biggest reduction in Glasgow, where the council is to cut all 35 of its assistants to save £300,000.
The German consul general to Scotland said the impact of the cuts would be felt in years to come.
Native speakers from 15 different nations, including Austria, Columbia, China and Mexico, are used by Scottish primary and secondary schools, in both the state and private sector, to enhance modern language teaching and develop intercultural awareness.
In 2009-10, there were 167 assistants in Scottish state schools. In the next academic year, there could be fewer than 50.
Glasgow City Council told the BBC it had been forced to make tough decisions in the current financial climate.
A spokeswoman for the council added: “The language assistants are an enhancement to provision in Glasgow schools.”
Out of 23 councils who responded to BBC Scotland, only five – Edinburgh, Orkney, East Renfrewshire, Angus and Inverclyde – said they planned to maintain or create new posts this coming year.
The British Council Scotland said it was disappointed at the falling numbers. A spokesman said: “In an increasingly international world, foreign language assistants provide a unique opportunity for Scottish students to experience different languages and cultures in the classroom.
“It is obviously disappointing that fewer students will have access to these experiences next year but we recognise the current funding pressures local authorities are under.
“British Council Scotland will continue to work with Scottish schools across a full range of projects to offer as many international learning opportunities as possible.”
Education Secretary Michael Russell said foreign language assistants and visiting teachers from overseas made an important contribution to education.
“I hope local authorities will be mindful of the importance of languages, but I know they are facing tough decisions even though our funding settlement for the coming year maintains the council’s share of overall spending despite the damaging cuts coming from Westminster,” said Russell.