Plans to cut school day leaves parents outraged

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A SCOTTISH council has outraged parents by planning to end the school week at Friday lunchtime in a bid to save cash.

The radical shake-up by Fife Council would save around £6m a year by cutting 2.5 hours of teaching.

But the proposal immediately drew fire from parents who face childcare chaos every Friday afternoon.

Council leader Alex Rowley said education accounted for 42% of the authority’s £800m annual budget and cuts would have to be explored.

He confirmed that a cut in the school week from 25 hours to 22.5 hours was one of the options.

The cut could save an estimated £3.5ma year in primary schools and £2.5m in secondaries.

Mr Rowley said: “The gap between grant from the Scottish Government and what we need to continue with services is massive and we will have to reduce the overall budget in all areas of the council.

“The number of hours children are taught varies from country to country and the evidence is that pupil’s performance owes more to the quality of teaching than the number of hours in the classroom.

“We want to continue to engage all parents in the budget discussions and options and will be organising all parent meetings before the end of the school year. The school day is one option that we will be putting on the agenda.”

David Farmer, a spokesman for education union the EIS, said that the Fife branch of the union had a number of concerns.

He said: “It  raises the issue of, if there are no kids on Friday afternoons, then what do staff do?

“Staff could be directed to do something else but our national agreement states that if teachers are not required for pupil cover then they can use the time at a place of their choosing. So if the kids go home, there’s a chance the staff might go home.

“The other thing, that is not a concern for the EIS directly but relevant, is that this will be a big issue for parents. If people have to pay extra for childcare there is a cost issue. Parents could have to pay for their kids to have a half day off.

“That’s been an issue for our members who are parents and it’s something that parents generally would have to find a solution to. Take someone in a low-paid job and it could cause a real problem.”

Nicola Livingstone, whose children attend Kirkcaldy West Primary, said: “ I don’t think it’s acceptable at all. Children get plenty of holidays – two weeks at Easter, seven in the summer – so they don’t need any more time off.

“Surely the council make enough money to pay for schools.”

A government spokesman said: “As long as teaching is being delivered, it is up to councils to see what the locals need.”

Councils in Edinburgh and the Lothians have closed schools at Friday lunchtimes for many years.

Many teachers use Friday afternoons to attend compulsory professional development courses but some senior teachers would support a return to full days on Fridays.

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