CASH-STRAPPED councils are using education budgets to help pay for campus cops, a new report has revealed. 

In three local authorities in Scotland, cash earmarked for closing the attainment gap between children in poorer and wealthier areas has been used to fund police officers in schools.

Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) is being provided as part of the £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund which will be invested over the current parliamentary term.

Critics today hit out at what they believe has been ungenerous financial settlements for local authorities, which fund schools.

Green MSP Ross Greer believes the move could make school children feel like "suspects."

He said: "The PEF is supposed to help schools tackle the poverty related attainment gap, but a lack of transparency means it is almost impossible to assess its impact.

"Paying for police officers on campus doesn't reduce inequality but it could make pupils feel like suspects, all while using money which could have been put towards other measures which do help close the attainment gap."

A briefing by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) from 2018 found that more than £400 million of spending had been axed from the education system since the start of the decade.

A spokesperson for the Education Institute of Scotland, the largest teachers' trade union in the country, said: "While campus police officers can contribute positively to school communities, the funding for such initiatives should not come from already hard-pressed education budgets."

Teacher numbers have fallen since the SNP administration came to power in 2007 and the Government is facing criticism over cuts in school subject choices.

John Butcher, at that point executive director of education at North Ayrshire Council, told MSPs at a Holyrood committee that this use of resources helped break down "some of the barriers between Police Scotland and local authorities and children and young people".

Martin Canavan, policy officer at the Aberlour Child Care Trust, disagreed at the time: "We're not entirely convinced as an organisation in terms of the work that we do, that campus police officers are a particularly good use of PEF funding."

Weeks later, the EIS agreed to embark on an investigation into the full extent of campus police and how the officers are funded.

After tabling a freedom of information request to all 32 councils, the EIS found that 43.8 per cent of all councils - 14 - confirmed that campus police are deployed in their schools.

However, nine of the 14 councils responded by saying that they partially funded the operation of campus police.

The EIS survey noted that the funding from schools or councils varied from 50% of the cost of an officer, to some authorities specifying that they pay for "one or two".

According to the research, three education authorities paid for campus police in part through their PEF funding.

The union report concluded: "Many education authorities in Scotland have entered into arrangements with Police Scotland to have campus police officers that are based on all or most of the secondary school premises.

"In most cases, the education authority or schools contribute to the funding of campus police officers."

One example cited was Falkirk Council, which in 2016 agreed a plan for its children's services department to pay Police Scotland for two officers.

The role of the "school-based officers" includes assisting in reducing anti-social behaviour and youth crime, promoting a positive image of the force, and educating the community about the "consequences of actions".

South Ayrshire Council funds eight campus officers - 50 per cent of their salaries - at a cost of £156,988 a year.

A spokesperson for council umbrella group Cosla said the issue of campus police is for individual schools to determine.