Extra class time for high schools in Falkirk

Pupils will be spending more time in the classroom
Pupils will be spending more time in the classroom

Thousands of high school pupils will be in the classroom for 33 periods a week from next August.

The plan was given the seal of approval at the first meeting of Falkirk Council’s new education executive on Tuesday, despite the fact the change will add an estimated £135,000 to the school transport bill.

Its predecessor, the education committee, agreed in January to extend the working day for teachers and youngsters from 30 to 33 periods to maximise efficiency and make better use of staff resources.

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Since then parents, pupils, teachers and their unions have been consulted on the details of the change and given the plan “broad acceptance”.

Nigel Fletcher, the council’s head of educational support, told councillors it will deliver 27.5 hours schooling for pupils and 22.5 hours contact time for teachers, which was not possible under the old system.

He said: “This was inefficient because it creates time that cannot be allocated to teachers that could be better used to enhance the curriculum. A 33-period week of 50-minute lessons can deliver the exact class contact required, maximise the number of teaching periods available, provide schools with an opportunity to implement the full entitlements of the Curriculum for Excellence and deliver two periods of physical education.”

Councillors heard high schools have made adjustments to their working framework to meet the concerns raised.

These had included potential issues for working parents and childcare, possible reduced lunch hours and an impact on clubs and lunchtime activites, some earlier starts to the day and the risk of younger pupils becoming tired with some longer afternoons.

A total of 91 written responses to the consultation had been received from parents after director of education Andrew Sutherland wrote to them detailing the proposal, but Mr Fletcher gave assurances they will all be addressed.

He said: “There is broad acceptance of the proposed changes to the existing model of the school week. Very few objections were received from pupils, parents and staff. A number of authorities across Scotland have implemented the 33-period week because it allows for greater timetabling efficiency and better use of the available staff resources.”

On the transport bill he said: “The rise is because more buses will be needed and can be met from within the existing budget. It is an estimated figure and we hope it will not be as high as that and expectated to negate over the next three years.”