Dundee City Council has been slapped down by the education secretary after suggesting money aimed at closing the attainment gap could be used to fund swimming lessons.
John Swinney said his officials had been in touch with the SNP-led authority directly to make clear it was not acceptable for pupil equity funding – money given to schools by the Scottish Government to help poorer children – to be used in this way.
The council previously said head teachers had been “given the opportunity to explore” the measure after it was announced classes would no longer be sent out of Dundee schools to learn how to swim.
Mr Swinney was pressed by opposition MSPs on whether this was an acceptable use of the cash as he appeared before Holyrood’s education committee.
He said it was not and confirmed it would be within his remit to remove any such grant allocated in this way.
Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray claimed Mr Swinney had “got himself in hot water over these SNP cuts to swimming lessons”.
He said: “The reality is the SNP has now underfunded education to such an extent that councilsuch as Dundee are having to cut services that expand life chances and promote healthy lives.
“Then head teachers are told by council leaders to use attainment fund money to cover the cuts – only for John Swinney to later admit that isn’t what the money is for at all.
“This deeply embarrassing episode exposes the price of £1.5 billion of SNP cuts to local government.”
The £120 million public equity fund is given directly to schools, with head teachers expected to use the cash on initiatives aimed at closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
Paul Clancy, executive director of children and families services at Dundee City Council, said the local authority was looking at new models about how it delivers swimming, which could include a range of options such as evening and weekend classes or instructors paid for by the local authority.
It is understood officials will now look to draw up proposals to take back to committee and parents by the end of October with the hope of implementing new plans shortly thereafter.