A Scots council could become the first in the country to introduce a four-day week for school pupils in a bid to plug a £15m budget gap.
West Dunbartonshire Council is currently considering the radical proposals alongside a range of other measures as part of the local authority’s 2023/24 spending plans.
Currently primary schools open to pupils from 9am to 3pm with secondary schools running on an asymmetric week with seven periods on Mondays and Tuesdays and six periods on Wednesdays to Fridays.
However, if new proposals are agreed at the full council meeting on March 1, primary schools would open Monday to Thursday from 8:30am until 3:45pm and secondary schools would run an eight period day from Monday to Thursday, 8:20am until 4:10pm.
The plans were outlined to parents in a letter, seen by STV News, from the council’s chief education officer Laura Mason on Friday.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s biggest teaching union, said the proposals are in an early stage with “no lived experience to draw on” as the local authority would be the first to move away from the five-day week model.
‘Other authorities have moved to an asymmetric week with a half day on Friday but never a complete closure on a Friday so we don’t have any lived experience to draw on.’Mick Dolan West Dunbartonshire’s representative for the EIS
The other proposals being considered for education across the council include the reduction of learning assistants; review of school clothing grant, educational maintenance allowance and library services; removal of breakfast clubs in primary schools; removal of swimming lessons for primary four pupils; and the removal of six early learning and childcare officers.
West Dunbartonshire Council say the plans for a four-day week would have no impact upon teaching time or teacher numbers.
Papers being considered by the council state that, if agreed, the plans would save costs of transportation and energy usage.
However, it also notes that the proposal “may not be well-received as it may impact upon childcare arrangements for parents”.
It also notes that “consideration must be given to supports in place for vulnerable children whose attendance at school provides a much-needed routine”.
Plans for a fifth day of services for vulnerable and at-risk children are being explored including a programme of extra-curricular activities on Fridays.
As a result of the council’s contract with construction firm BAM, secondary school buildings are required to remain open, with the council suggesting they could be used to host the fifth day of activities.
In June 2022, during an EIS annual general meeting, the union delegates unanimously backed a motion calling to push for a four-day week, along with other trade unions and the Scottish Trades Union Congress.
Delegates argued that a four-day week could improve the standard of teacher pay and wellbeing.
However, West Dunbartonshire’s local EIS representatives said the council’s current proposals would require a “considerable level of consultation” before being implemented.
Mick Dolan West Dunbartonshire’s EIS spokesperson said: “It would require a considerable level of consultation before it was possible to take it forward, if it ever was to be taken forward.
“While teacher working time and pupil contact time wouldn’t change, the shape of the day for teachers, pupils and their families would change as well as the impact of having one less day at school per week.
“Other authorities have moved to an asymmetric week with a half day on Friday but never a complete closure on a Friday so we don’t have any lived experience to draw on.
“It also presents an issue in relation to the national guidance on the number of school openings and on the number of working days for teachers per year which impacts on pay structures.
“We have no detail on how any savings would be made but this would most probably have an impact on fellow workers in non teaching roles in schools and this would be a concern to all trade union groups within the authority.”
A spokesperson for West Dunbartonshire Council said: “These options were developed by officers to address the Council’s unprecedented £15m budget gap.
“No decision can or will be taken until this is considered by elected members at a Council meeting on March 1.”