Struggling students will fall further behind and teachers will be discouraged from improving their skills as the State Government's Budget cuts continue to push up the price of employing support teachers, it has been claimed.

The Government's midyear review says schools will be forced to pay a higher rate for support teachers "to reflect the full cost of schools employing relief staff" to make savings.

WA Primary Principals Association president Steve Breen said the cost of support teachers had rocketed 60 per cent in five years, from $320 to $520 per teacher per day.

The increases affected schools' ability to employ extra teachers to help with struggling students and did not concern teachers who were needed when another teacher was sick.

"For example, if a school wants to employ a teacher to work with 10 students over five weeks in intensive work in literacy or numeracy support, they will be prevented because costs are blowing out," Mr Breen said.

He said the higher rate meant schools would not be able to get as many relief teacher days out of the grant they got from the Education Department.

Early-intervention projects and excursions would have to be scaled back and schools would find it harder to employ teachers to help with administrative work.

Mr Breen said it would also curtail professional development because it would be too expensive for schools to pay a support teacher to look after a class while a staff member attended a course to improve their teaching skills, such as courses in behavioural management.

Department director-general Sharyn O'Neill said the current system gave schools the flexibility to employ both casual and permanent staff to meet their needs.

She said the higher rates would not affect student welfare, services or learning.

Department figures show the rate paid for support teachers will increase 11 per cent, from $470 last year to $525 this year, to reflect the higher costs of employing staff.

Mr Breen said an 11 per cent rise was not justified when teachers' wages had increased just 4 per cent.

Shadow education minister Paul Papalia said: "This is a savage cut to school budgets at the same time it has found extra money for pet CBD projects in the midyear review."

Education Minister Peter Collier said the Budget cuts did not affect frontline services or students' education.

The West Australian

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