‘Vast majority’ have issues with change

The availability and cost of additional childcare is the biggest issue for parents with the proposed four-and-a-half day school week.

The council’s director of education, Glenn Rodger, has revealed the “vast majority” of the 5,153 people who got involved with the consultation have issues and concerns about the change.

However he has still recommended councillors agree to it being implemented in August, with a the half day being a Friday.

In a report to go before councillors today, Mr Rodger states: “It is acknowledged that a move to a four-and-a-half day school week will create issues and concerns for many parents, pupils and the wider community.

“These issues around childcare, school transport, ICT infrastructures and others will require careful planning and an element of redesign.”

Over 60 per cent of parents of primary school pupils who filled in the online consultation form stated childcare was their biggest concern, with 37 per cent of parents of secondary pupils stating it was their top concern.

Parents raised issues around the suitability of existing childcare options for older children and also the potential for anti-social behaviour from secondary pupils loitering around towns.

The longer days are another concerns for many, including almost 600 pupils.

Around a fifth of parents fear the changes may have a negative impact on their child’s education.

However almost a quarter of the 1,200 people who responded online said they were in favour of the changes, with some commenting that it would give them more family time, time for sport and a longer weekend.

Staff consulted on the proposed changes were split, with a third looking forward to the benefits provided, but a fifth raised concerns about e-learning and effective use of double periods, with individual periods set to increase to 50 minutes.

In his report, Mr Rodger states SBC will put an extra £50,000 into the development of voluntary sector out-of-school care and have discussions with leisure and sports providers to ensure that a range of activities are available on Friday afternoons.

It is also proposed that the 15 minute break time on the Friday is extended to 30 minutes to allow pupils to have a light lunch.

The council anticipates annual savings of £500,000 from the introduction of an asymmetric school week, although there will be initial costs with its implementation.

Mr Rodger has stated that in the longer term it will help ensure breadth of pupil course choice in the event of a cut in teacher numbers.