Constance blocks move to cut school week

COUNCILS are to be blocked from cutting the length of the school week in Scotland’s primaries as a cost-cutting measure, it has been announced.

Angela Constance. Picture: Michael Gillen
Angela Constance. Picture: Michael Gillen

Education Secretary Angela Constance revealed yesterday that the law is to be changed guaranteeing pupils a minimum of 950 hours a year – the equivalent of 25 hours a week.

Angry parents hit out earlier this year after some councils unveiled plans which could have seen up to two-and-a-half-hours cut from the school week.

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The Education Secretary said: “We will legislate to provide certainty for pupils, parents and teachers about the length of the school week – a teacher time guarantee that every one of our children and young people should expect, and which they deserve.

“Decisions on the amount of time with teachers, in class and at school, should always be made based on the potential educational benefit for children, rather than on how much money can be saved.”

West Dunbartonshire Council was forced into a U-turn earlier this year after proposals to cut two-and-a-half hours from the primary school week in a bid to save about £1 million provoked a storm of protest from parents.

Highland Council recently revisited the idea of a four-and-a-half day week. Last year, it delayed a proposal to reduce the time pupils in primaries four, five, six and seven spend in class.

But Ms Constance’s intervention met with an angry reaction from local government umbrella body Cosla. Its education spokeswoman, Stephanie Primrose, said there has been “zero consultation” over the measure.

She said: “We hear about it only a matter of hours before amendments are submitted. This is either bad planning on their part, or a knee-jerk response to an issue that was far from the top of the pile a matter of weeks ago.”

Opposition parties also hit out at the sudden move. Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “This is showing a shocking contempt for the parliamentary process and it is little wonder that bodies such as Cosla are so outraged.”

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur said: “This shows utter contempt for parliament and for local authorities, giving no opportunity to take evidence on the proposals before having to vote on them.”

In a separate move, the government announced parents are to get help to meet the rising cost of school uniforms. A minimum school clothing grant will be provided to families who need it, with measures being drawn up to end the current “postcode lottery” in the grants process.