Parents 'outraged' at council plans to cut school teaching hours

More than 2,000 people have signed a petition to protest the move by Falkirk Council to introduce a new asymmetric week.

Thousands of parents across Falkirk say they are “outraged” at plans by the council to cut school learning hours in a bid to save money.

Falkirk Council is facing a budget gap of £64m over the next five years and says there will be direct cuts to staff and services if school hours aren’t reduced.

For primary school pupils, the week could reduce from 25 hours of learning to 22 and a half, while secondary schools could see the week reduced from 26.6 hours to 24.7.

The Scottish Government says the proposals are unacceptable.

It’s the talk of the playground for parents at schools across the Falkirk area as concern grows about the future of their children’s education.

Meetings are set to get under way shortly to inform parents and carers of the new plans.

But mum-of-two Liane Tait has already set up a petition against the move that has received more than 2,000 signatures.

Liane Tait.STV News

She told STV News: “When you look at the numbers, it works out from P1 to S6 that they are going to lose a whole year of education in that time.

“It’s a whole year less than all their peers in the rest of Scotland. I think that puts them at such a disadvantage.”

Falkirk Council is proposing what it’s calling a new asymmetric week that would see all the schools in the area close at lunch time on a Friday.

STV News has received emails of concern not only from parents worried about how that would affect their children’s education, but how it will impact those who have no childcare, as well as children with additional support needs.

Some 20 parent councils have written to the local authority expressing their concerns.

James Alexander from Kinnaird Primary School Parent Partnership said: “Three key highlights for us are the reduction in school time – 40 weeks of education will be lost if this proposal goes forward

“Secondly, the effect it will have on additional support needs, particularly here at Kinnaird, where we have a large provision, and thirdly the cost implications this will have for families.”

Councillor Laura Murtagh added: “We shouldn’t be taking a postcode lottery approach to our children’s education and I think it would be important that government engage in this discussion as well.

Councillor Laura Murtagh.STV News

“If they want to see learning hours prescribed, I would very much be in favour of that.”

But it’s not just parents that are worried.

Andrea Bradley, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: “People are very concerned about the intent behind this reconfiguration of the pupil week.

“They think it is an underhand way of administering cuts to the quality of pupils’ education, but also cuts to teacher numbers, and neither of those things are acceptable to the EIS.”

Falkirk High School.STV News

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “We understand parents and carers are concerned about the potential impacts of proposed changes to the school week on their children’s education.

“Please be assured that these changes are not final and have been brought forward to open a dialogue with stakeholders, including parents, carers and the pupils themselves.

“The ultimate goal of any proposed change is to address the council’s significant budget deficit, which stands at £62.5m, as reported in February 2024, while continuing to ensure high-quality education for all our pupils. 

“We will engage extensively with parents and carers through meetings held in every school to discuss the proposed changes.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government says cuts to learning hours would not be acceptable.

A spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is concerned at any suggestion of cuts to learning hours and is clear that this would not be acceptable.

“Ministers are keen to come to a voluntary agreement with local government on protecting learning hours, but if no agreement is reached will take steps to prescribe the number of hours made available in regulations.”

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