Fears mount at Earlston over proposal for new school timetable

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Concerns have been raised at Earlston High surrounding the proposed new timetable for secondary schools in the Borders.

The school’s parent council has written to Scottish Borders Council’s education department outlining its worries.

And it is believed the timetable – which would involve 2.50pm finishes on Wednesdays and Fridays – could see Earlston teachers face an hour wait after school hours in order to supervise pupils waiting on public transport.

While waiting to hear the findings from Berwickshire High’s pilot project before giving his views, Earlston councillor John Paton-Day admitted: “There are a number of concerns from the parent council at Earlston. There are concerns that teachers who give up time after school for activities could now find that difficult to do due to the proposed school hours. I know there are quite serious concerns from teachers.

“There are also worries about the early morning starts and finishes, and matching transport with the finish times.

“Some of these proposals are going to need some serious consideration, and I am sure the education department are doing that.

“But I would prefer to see analysis of the trial at Berwickshire High before deciding myself.”

TheSouthern reported last month that a 33-period week to replace the current 30-period model had been outlined to parents by SBC in an effort to align all of the region’s nine secondary schools.

However, issues such as a perceived lack of consultation, transport arrangements and early start and finish times have proved controversial.

An SBC spokesman said the authority was not in a position to say when a final decision would be made, but the council’s executive member for education George Turnbull told TheSouthern last month that a ruling would have to be made in December if the new timetable was to be in operation for the 2012/13 school year.

The spokesman added: “As no decisions have yet been made about introducing a 33-period week, details surrounding issues such as pupil transport have not been decided. We continue to welcome feedback on these proposals and will, of course, carefully consider these views before making any decisions.”

Kay Miller, of the Borders’ biggest teaching union EIS, is unsure whether the advantages outlined by SBC in support of the proposed timetable will work.

She said: “The big idea is to match subjects across all the schools so, for example, fifth-year pupils could travel to another school to be taught if their school no longer teaches the subject.

“But is this feasible in our geographical area?

“It might work in Edinburgh but we must have one of the highest percentage of pupils to use public transport to get to school.

“The problem will be with the bus companies as they currently arrange transport for primary children as well as secondary. A change to the timetable may not fit in to their schedule.

“It could also prove quite expensive to get extra buses.”