Balwearie High School looks to cut school hours to save cash

A high school in Kirkcaldy is considering cutting school hours.

Monday, 25th March 2019, 2:09 pm
Updated Monday, 25th March 2019, 4:23 pm
Balwearie High School in Kirkcaldy.

Balwearie high school has proposed ending the school week at 1.30pm on a Friday after budget cuts left the school struggling.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Neil McNeil has opened consultation with parents to make the £347,000 saving required by the school over the next year.

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Mr McNeil suggested reducing the school week to four and a half days, or reduce the number of subjects available to students, but added that he would like to avoid the second option if possible.

In his letter, Mr McNeil wrote: “There is only one school week option that will help us to make a saving and that is to reduce the school week for pupils, by 38 minutes.

“Arrangements for a school lunch on the Friday will be made. Bus contracts for this model will be negotiated by Fife Council and so start and finish times may be subject to change.

“I would like to gather your views on this proposal before moving to that stage. The only alternative to this course of action would be to reduce the number of subjects on offer to pupils resulting in a limited amount of choice within the curriculum with possible consequences for future career pathways. I wish to avoid this at all costs and don’t want to offer it as a solution.”

This comes after the position of principal teachers was cut in this year’s budget.

Balwearie would become the fourth school in Fife to propose cutting school hours amid budget shortfalls, with St Columbas RC in Dunfermline, Madras College in St Andrews and Waid Academy in Anstruther all taking similar measures.

Education and Children’s Services Convener, Councillor Fay Sinclair said: “Schools in Fife are able to tailor the school day to meet the specific requirements of their school community.

“Any changes are made by each school following discussions with the parent council, staff and pupils.

“The proposals at Balwearie include removing 50 minutes per week of registration periods and will actually increase the amount of teaching time each pupil receives.”

She added: “There has never been standardisation of the school day across Fife, but the Education and Children’s Services Committee recently agreed a vision for Fife schools that included harmonising timetables to enable better working across localities, as well as in partnership with Fife College, and ensure a consistent curriculum offer for all pupils.

“The savings required are the result of budget decisions phased over two years, which were not opposed by a single political group or councillor in Fife. We will continue to spend more than £300 million each year on education in Fife, with £70 million for teacher staffing, allocated through the devolved school management budget to our 18 high schools.”

Parents said that the headteacher has been put in a difficult place, and attacked Fife Council over funding cuts.

In a statement, Balwearie High School’s Parent Voice said: “As parents, we feel it is regrettable that Fife Council is demanding Balwearie High School make savings of £347,000.

“Mr McNeil, Headteacher, is between a rock and a hard place.

“The options available to him to meet the funding gap imposed by the council are basically a shorter school week or reduce subject choice for pupils.

“This fundamental shift to an asymmetric school week reduces the time that pupils will spend in school and cannot be dismissed by the council as a ‘minor change’.

“It is also unfortunate that Fife Council is giving less money to the Kingdom’s secondary schools and have cut the supply teacher budget at a time when not one of their secondary schools appear in the top 50 Scottish state secondary schools league table.”