Fife school changes petition is ‘inaccurate’

Changes are in line to be made to the school day.
Changes are in line to be made to the school day.

A petition opposing cuts in teaching time and changes to timetables in Fife schools has attracted over 2500 signatures in just a few days.

But Fife Council says much of the information provided with the petition is inaccurate, out of date or simply wrong.

And Councillor Bryan Poole, the Council’s education spokesman, has appealed for a “reasoned discussion” following the recent series of education engagement meetings.

The petition has been circulated on Facebook by Dehra Sweet, a parent from Freuchie.

The petition says the proposals will go before councillors in January, so there will be next to no time for the public to have its say, adding that “teachers are already being told it is a done deal” and that the changes will come into effect from August 2015.

It accuses the Council of trying to bring in the proposals in as quiet a way as possible.And it says the whole scheme seems to be “a quick reactionary response to budget cuts, rather than any real desire to make improvements in education”.

It also criticises the lack of consideration given to the need for extra childcare and the lack of support for vulnerable children.

The petition states: “We would welcome a truly evidence-based consultation process, fully involving parents, teachers and pupils, but feel this scheme has not been given the required thought, time or consideration, and that no consideration has been given to the financial, practical and emotional effect this will have on Fife’s children, their families and carers.”

The Council is looking at the possibility of cutting the school week for primary pupils by 2.5 hours to 22.5 hours, matching the time teachers spend in the classroom.

It is also looking at changes to the way secondary school timetables are structured and at new ‘leadership models’ with headteachers perhaps being responsible for more than one school.

But Cllr Poole stressed there are currently no firm proposals, and the discussions taking place are to guage reaction and consider the merits of any changes.

He said the August 2015 date came from an out-of-date document from last year’s draft budget proposals, which was rejected.

Cllr Poole added that if proposals were put forward, they would go before the executive committee in February or March at the earliest.

There would then have to be a formal consultation, which wouldn’t be able to take place until late May due to the General Election.

He rejected the claim the engagement meetings were not publicised, pointing out most, if not all, Fife newspapers carried information before and after meetings, and over 40,000 notes were distributed via a ‘schoolbag’ drop.

Cllr Poole was also adamant that no teachers would lose their jobs as a result of any of the proposals brought forward. He acknowledged some posts might have to go, but these would either be vacant posts or the teachers involved could be redeployed.

Cllr Poole has written to Ms Sweet offering to meet her, and others, to discuss the options being considered for education in Fife.

Participation of parents is so important

Councillor Bryan Poole said he was pleased so many parents participated in the engagement meetings, but it was unhelpful that some had received ‘mis-information’.

He said the sole purpose of the meetings was to flag up ideas which it was felt could improve education and learning experiences in Fife.

He continued: “My plea to everyone – parents, teachers, councillors and the wider public – is to examine the evidence and research presented at the meetings, listen to the arguments forwarded by the educationalists and then, and only then, come to a view on whether the options as outlined will, or will not, lead to improvements to the education and learning experience of Fife’s young people.”

Cllr Poole insisted nothing was being rushed through and, while savings had to be found, this process was not being driven by budget cuts.

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