Shorter week for Fife primary school pupils is ruled out

Plans for a shorter school week at primary school have been pulled.
Plans for a shorter school week at primary school have been pulled.

The idea of reducing the school day in primary schools – which may have seen pupils being given a half day on Fridays – is now “off the table”.

And Fife Council leader David Ross has also stated that the Labour administration will not be accepting future cuts in the education budget.

Changes to the school week, both in secondaries and primaries, as well as re-designing leadership models, were put before parents and teachers at a series of meetings towards the end of last year.

The suggestion of cutting the primary school week from 25 hours to 22.5 hours to match the time teachers spend in the classroom proved particularly controversial.

Cllr Ross said: ““The current education engagement on future approaches to improving education in Fife has been a major success with over 1500 people participating in engagement meetings and further meetings with parent councils. This engagement is, and remains, separate from the budget process.

“There is general agreement around some issues discussed as part of the education engagement process, for instance the embedding of employability in secondary education and the broadening of the options on offer at that level.

“However there is significant public concern regarding the possibility of reducing the school day in primary schools.

“Our education officials still hold the view that there would be educational benefits from this approach. However it is clear that the case for this approach has not been made.

“Unless and until the concerns expressed can be addressed and alleviated, and unless there is clear evidence to support this approach then it is off the table as far as our administration is concerned.”

Cllr Ross added that education was a major priority, and that is should be funded properly by the Scottish Government.

“We estimate that Fife needs at least £27m additional funding from Holyrood to maintain current levels of education provision over the next three years,” he said.

“We will be pressing the Scottish Government vigorously in the coming months to provide the level of funding we need in Fife for our education system.”

Independent councillor Bryan Poole, executive spokesman for education, said he believed changing the school week in primary schools would have been of benefit, but he accepted this wasn’t the view of the majority of parents.

“I supported the idea as I believed it would free up time to help us develop the best possible teachers, but we have always said we would only go ahead with the support of parents and teachers.”

However, he added he was disappointed a decision had been taken before the education service had been given the chance to present the findings of its engagement process, and had been angered by the “politicisation” of the the issues being discussed.

Earlier this week, Cllr Tim Brett, Liberal Democrat group leader, and his party’s Scottish leader, Willie Rennie MSP, claimed there had been insufficient evidence to show that the changes would not have a detrimental effect on the quality of education in Fife.

And Fife’s SNP councillors said they would oppose any proposals to send pupils home early one day a week to save money on teaching posts.

Cllr Douglas Chapman, the SNP’s education spokesman, said: “This has been roundly condemned by parents, teachers and pupils despite a very one-sided ‘consultation’ by the council.”