Change to school week will cost – but children should come first

LONGER SCHOOL DAYS with an early finish on Friday’s will help bring more teaching staff to work in Moray.

That, at least, is the hope of Councillors who this week approved a plan to change the hours our secondary school children attend classes.

Supporters of the plan also insist that by spending more time in classes from Monday to Thursday and having a regular half-day on Friday’s, exam results will improve – because teachers will have more time spent on delivering courses.

On Wednesday the Full Council meeting endorsed the plan that had already been approved by the Children and Young People’s Services Committee, chaired by Buckie councillor Tim Eagle – a strong supporter of the plan to change the school timetable structure.

As from 2018, the school week in Moray will consist of 33 periods rather than the current 30 – despite the plan having had a very mixed response from parents, who had been consulted on the proposals. One, Elizabeth Watson who chairs the Forres Academy parent council, said she was surprised the plan was going ahead.

“We had split views from parents,” She said, adding: “Some were in favour of Friday afternoons off for extra-curricular things – but on the flip side there are parents with extra childcare costs and with children still at primary school.

“The loss of registration 10 minutes at the start of the day was a worry also – that can be quite useful to help organise the day.”

Attending the meeting on Wednesday were several head teachers, including Buckie High School’s Neil Johnson who address councillors. He said: “The primary reason is that in order to let S4 pupils take six qualifications, we have reduced the amount of time per course.

“The recommended contact time for the course is 160 hours – but some courses are only getting 113 or 114 at the moment. It is evident that teachers are struggling to get everything they need to. The extra time at that level will get us much closer to where we need to.”

Councillor Eagle reassured councillors who expressed doubts over the plan that it was necessary as children were currently being failed because teachers were having to rush courses.

He said: “Our teachers are doing the most amazing job in possibly the worst teaching crisis we have ever seen. Our head teachers are desperately trying to keep our schools together and working hard in class, some of them, to do that.

“This will not save us money – it will cost us money, but it is about the best for our children.”

It is anticipated that one consequence will be the re-negotiation of transport contracts for schools, at a cost of around £215,000 extra each year.

Several councillors questioned where the money would come from to cover the additional burden, however, SNP Councillor Theresa Coull said: “Money should not come into this [decision] – this is our children we are talking about.”