Proposed changes to school week were not communicated properly

Options include primary pupils spending less time in the classroom.
Options include primary pupils spending less time in the classroom.

Councillors have criticised the engagement process designed to explain possible changes to the way schools operate in Fife.

They said letters inviting parents to meetings to explain the options lacked clarity – and they said it should have been made clear that the changes were linked to budget cuts.

Options put forward by education officers include reducing the school week in primary schools, giving pupils a half day on Fridays.

Officers have also suggested aligning secondary school timetables, increasing some class sizes and changing leadership roles, with some headteachers being responsible for more than one school.

The suggested changes would result in around 180 teaching jobs being lost, saving around £7m from the education budget.

But members of the Council’s education scrutiny committee said that wasn’t made clear to parents.

Councillor Susan Leslie, who chairs the committee, said her impression was many parents felt they had been “hoodwinked”.

“My impression was this was about making long-term budget savings, but doing it in a way we could manage it properly, rather than simply ‘salami slicing’ the budget.

“However, this wasn’t communicated to parents.

“I think that has left a cloud sitting over what should have been a positive process.

“Parents would have been more open to that discussion had that been made clear at the beginning.”

Education officers at the scrutiny meeting accepted the engagement process could have been handled better.

But while the options have attracted considerable criticism, Donna Manson, head of education, pointed out: “We do have a number of parent councils who have responded positively as the head has been able to get across how it would work in their school.”