Glasgow schools face major staff cuts for mentoring scheme

Glasgow councillors asked to back major cuts to city-wide mentoring scheme

Glasgow councillors are being asked to back a 50% cut in core staff provision for a “transformational” school mentoring scheme, The Herald can reveal.

The vote will also take place despite the fact that no Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) has yet been carried out.

The MCR Pathways programme supports vulnerable young people, such as those with experience of the care system, by matching them with a mentor. It has been credited with boosting attendance and attainment rates and helping more young people into employment, education or training after leaving school.

In February, The Herald reported that the programme was to be cut as a result of the SNP-Green budget deal at Glasgow City Council. The decision led to an outcry from teachers, parents groups, mentoring volunteers and service users, but neither the SNP nor the Greens would comment at the time.

The issue was referred to a cross-party oversight group, and the City Treasurer, Ricky Bell, said in May that he was “extremely confident” that the service would be saved.

Documents now released in advance of a full council vote this week outline the scale of the final proposed cuts to the programme. The report is in the name of Christina Cannon, the council’s Education, Skills and Early Years Convener.

Five options were presented to the cross party group, but members did not agree on which should be taken to a vote at full council, so the administration decided to push ahead with option 4 as the “preferred model of delivery.”

Until now, schools were allocated one full time co-ordinator to oversee the programme, but proposals now published by the council state that this will be cut in half to “provide a baseline 0.5 fte (or less depending on need) Pathways Coordinator posts to all schools”. Individual schools will be able to increase this allocation, but only by redirecting anti-poverty funding provided by the Scottish government, known as Pupil Equity Funding.

The council documents admits that schools who are “unable to fund extra would have their Pathways Coordinator shared between two schools”. The documents also confirm that some schools will not be able to secure additional support “since they have already fully allocated PEF.”


A screenshot of council documents showing the Potential Options for Reform of MCR Pathways provision. (Image: Glasgow City Council / The Herald)

Pupil Equity Funding is allocated to school based on the number of pupils in receipt of free school meals. Government guidance states that it should be used “to deliver activities, approaches or resources which are clearly additional to universal local improvement plans.”             

The Herald can also reveal that councillors will be asked to back the reductions despite the fact that an Equality Impact Assessment has not yet been carried out, meaning that the impact of the cuts on vulnerable young people has not been fully assessed.

Outlining the ‘equality impacts’ of the proposed cuts to the programme, the document states:

“The impact of the proposals are positive in that they maintain a mentoring service to care experienced and vulnerable young people. A full EQIA will be carried out.”

Leanne McGuire, chair of the Glasgow City Parents Group, hit out at the council’s latest plans: “The council’s decision to reduce overall budgets while requiring schools to use Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) to support MCR Coordinator roles is a double blow.

“This pits essential services against each other, straining already tight resources. Schools are now expected to cover costs for services that were previously funded, which puts additional pressure on staff.

“MCR Coordinators are crucial for mentoring relationships in schools, and it’s concerning that these roles will be on reduced hours and not as readily available as they currently are in schools. The support they provide to mentees and mentors is vital, and this decision suggests a lack of understanding of the complexities involved. We cannot continue to ask school staff and teachers to do more with less.

“While schools will strive to minimise the impact on students, our concern is that this sets a dangerous precedent for the future of education in Glasgow.”

A spokesperson for EIS Glasgow said: “The EIS is deeply concerned to hear of the proposal which will see the allocation of MCR Pathways Coordinator posts cut in half in each Glasgow school, from fulltime to 0.5 of the week. Further we condemn the funding model which dictates that schools wishing to secure more Coordinator hours must use their own allocation of Pupil Equity Funding.

“Mentors are vital for supporting pupils, especially those with assisted support needs or from areas of multiple deprivation. The role of Coordinator is crucial here in that it matches our pupils with the most suitable mentor for their needs, ensuring the best possible support for our young people to achieve and attain.

“Further, we are alarmed to understand that GCC has not carried out an Equality Impact Assessment which would gauge the impact this cut to an award-winning provision would have on Glasgow pupils and the wider school community.

“Schools in most need and fighting to close the poverty related attainment gap are once again burdened by cost and the EIS calls for an immediate delay to these proposals while impact is fully and properly assessed.”

Blair Anderson, the Glasgow Greens education spokesperson, confirmed that his group will back the proposals: “I don’t think any councillor, from any party, wants to see reductions in spending to education. In a time of austerity, and with that looking set to continue for years to come, councils need to set balanced budgets – at the same time, national governments need to fund councils properly, and all politicians need to be more ambitious in how we raise money to fund our public services.

“I have been working on those revenue raising options, with Council set to vote in the coming weeks on my motion which would see Glasgow bring in a tourist tax as soon as possible. Measures like the Greens’ tourist tax, business rates reform, and an infrastructure levy will take pressure off council budgets and allow us to spend more on services like MCR Pathways – I hope that every councillor rightly criticising budget cuts will back those plans or bring their own ideas to the table.

“On the options for ongoing delivery of MCR Pathways in Glasgow, Greens have said from day one that we would work to find ways to deliver a sustainable service which maintains a mentoring programme for the children who need it most. The Greens will be backing the option which maintains the vast majority of coordinators while refocusing their work on delivery of that mentoring programme – this option will ensure that there is no reduction in the number of children receiving that one-to-one mentoring support. A quick decision is needed on this, and the Greens have been pushing for a speedy resolution to this review before summer recess, to give much-needed clarity for staff. We will, however, be challenging the administration on EQIAs, as they need to do better in this regard.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Labour group on Glasgow City Council said: “Labour group are hugely disappointed to see Option4 coming through for approval. Our representatives on the political oversight group did not agree to this.

“We will be tabling an amendment on Thursday. Fundamentally how can we approve a paper with no Equality Impact Assessment, especially when those impacted as our city’s children?”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Decisions around the MCR Pathways programme in Glasgow is a matter for Glasgow City Council.

“With regards to Pupil Equity Funding, the Scottish Government PEF guidance is clear that headteachers must have access to their school’s full allocation of Pupil Equity Funding. That funding should be used to deliver targeted activities, approaches or resources to help close the poverty related attainment gap and which are clearly additional to universal local improvement plans.  

“Headteachers and local authorities can work together to best provide approaches to meet the needs of children and young people impacted by poverty. Any joint funding of plans, staff or resources which include PEF must be mutually agreed.”

The SNP was approached for comment.

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