Change to school timetable considered

A CHANGE to the school week is being discussed in light of harsh economic challenges facing the Comhairle.

The Education and Children’s Services Committee are considering proposals to reconfigure the school timetable as part of a money saving exercise. It could mean early bells for pupils with Friday afternoons off – but earlier starts or later finishes the rest of the week.

Known as an ‘asymmetric week’ if approved by the committee the proposal would then be discussed at council meetings. If it is agreed by council there would then be pilot project to begin with.

A Comhairle spokesman confirmed that plans to change the school timetable are being discussed “to ensure that service provision can be more efficient, have no educational detriment and reduce pressure for cuts onfrontline services”. He said the change would not mean less student time in school.

If the Comhairle decide to go ahead with an asymmetric week pupils would end the school day at around 12.30pm on either Wednesday or Friday but make the time up else where in the week.

It has not been revealed how much the timetable change would save the Education Department, or how it would save money - but other councils considering similar proposals did so on the premiss that classe would not need alternative cover for teacher training and Continued Professional Development.

The Comhairle spokesman said there are several advantages to a revised timetable such as sporting opportunities, extra curricular activities and continued professional development for teachers.

He also said schools could increase the number of higher and vocational courses on offer if common start and finish times were established.

He did concede a change may disadvantage parents who have to arrange extra childcare but said “our aim would be that pupils would take part in activities”.

The timetable change is being discussed as part of a “budget choices exercise” being undertaken by the Education and Children’s Services Committee.

Speaking of the discussion taking place regarding school timetable changes Cllr Catriona Stewart, Chair of the Education and Children’s Services Committee insisted: “It has not yet been determined whether a proposal will be put to the Comhairle regarding the asymmetric week.

“Some local authorities have successfully adopted the asymmetric week following consultation with both teachers and parents.

“The merits of the system have been found by some local authorities such as Edinburgh City Council to outweigh disadvantages. Should a proposal be put forward members would have to consider the detail of any proposal in the specific context of the Western Isles.

“There is no proposal to adopt the system at present. Members will consider all proposals put forward by the department over the course of the next few months.

“No decision will be made by the Comhairle until after there have been discussions in our communities about the advantages and any possible disadvantages of the asymmetric week.”