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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 December 2007, 16:17 GMT
Class size cut claims criticised
Fiona Hyslop
Ms Hyslop said the councillor's remarks were "unfortunate"
Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop has criticised a council's claims it could not deliver class size cuts.

Scottish Borders Council said rising school rolls and a funding shortfall of about 4m left it unable to make such reductions for P1 to P3 pupils.

Speaking during an education committee debate at Holyrood, Ms Hyslop said that such claims were "unfortunate".

She said she would like to "engage in discussion" with the council to look at ways to reduce class sizes.

We've got an additional 1.3bn going to local authorities and Borders will have its share of that
Fiona Hyslop
Education Secretary

SBC's executive member for education, Catriona Bhatia, recently warned the authority was facing a 15% rise in pupil numbers over the next six years.

She said that as there was no extra money to employ new teachers or expand schools the council could not implement reductions in class sizes.

Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale Lib Dem MSP Jeremy Purvis asked Ms Hyslop what she could do if a council ruled out making cuts.

"The remarks by the Liberal Democrat education convener on Scottish Borders Council were unfortunate and she might want to reflect on that," Ms Hyslop said.

"We've got an additional 1.3bn going to local authorities and Borders will have its share of that."

'Held to ransom'

The minister added that her officials were meeting with the authority next week to discuss the situation.

"If you're saying to me that we shouldn't bother because they've already made a decision, then I'm not sure that other councillors on Borders Council would want to be held to ransom by one individual councillor," she said.

Ms Hyslop said that agreement on cutting class sizes had been reached as part an overall package in the recent concordat signed with local government body Cosla.

Each council's individual settlement was announced by Finance Secretary John Swinney last week, but these have yet to be signed up to.

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