School week set to change

Councillors are expected to approve a major change in the Borders’ education system this morning, Thursday, despite significant opposition.

The proposed move to a four-and-a-half day week school week resulted in more than 5,000 people getting involved in the consultation process.

But despite widespread opposition from parents and pupils, the changes are expected to set to be agreed and come into force in August.

In a report to councillors, Glenn Rodger, director of education states: “Despite the range of concerns expressed by parents and other stakeholders during the consultation exercise, the status quo is not a viable alternative.

“An asymmetric week is required if schools are to plan and deliver effective teaching and learning as finance and resources diminish over the next five years.”

He adds: “Whilst acknowledging the issues and concerns raised throughout this consultation, the alternatives of not going down such a path are even more concerning.

“Without the platform of an asymmetric week to host transformational change in our schools, the alternatives can only be a decrease in teacher numbers which will lead to larger class sizes and a significant reduction in course choices, particularly in our smaller secondary schools.”

Chris Mowat, parent council chairman at Kelso High School, told The Southern: “I understand that the savings need to be made quickly, but some schools will now have had three different timetabled weeks in the last two years.

“The consultations was rushed and without warning and if these changes are to come into force in August then it is not much time to prepare for teachers and parents.”

Mr Mowat is concerned the transport changes required have not been sorted, and in addition to taking time will give rise to expense, although SBC has said this will be “minimal”.

The school week changes are aimed at helping the education department deliver services with £11m a year less than is currently available, with savings expected from a cut in teacher numbers.

However, Mr Mowat believes that changes will have to be made at a Scottish Government level to enable teacher numbers to be cut due to an existing agreement with unions.

He added: “There will be initial additional expense from making the changes but the savings are supposed to be coming from efficiencies in staffing, but how quickly will that be achieved?”

Mr Mowat also questioned if school IT systems were fit-for-purpose when e-learning is also a key feature of the changes.