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4.5 day school week needed to keep teachers

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By Marcter
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4.5 day school week needed to keep teachers

THE region’s education system will struggle to recruit and hang onto teachers — unless a four-and-a-half day week is implemented.

This is a real concern shared by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s education chiefs last week.

However, they insist that the main driver for half day Friday proposals at schools is for learning and work/life balance benefits for both pupils and teachers.

At the council’s education committee last Thursday, Annandale North Councillor Carolyne Wilson said she had been speaking to headteachers who were not all on board with the potential timetable changes. She said: “Most of them only saw the benefit for recruitment and retention.”

Education official Jim Brown replied: “You’re absolutely right, the headteachers will see the practicalities of recruitment and retention issue very clearly.

“This will be a significant benefit to that. If we were to remain a five-day week, we would then very likely have challenges around recruitment.

“However, just to reiterate, today we’re not really talking about that. We’re simply saying we’d like the opportunity to seek your approval to reach out to our communities to understand better what they feel, what they think, and what their concerns and worries are.”

Plans have been drawn up for a comprehensive consultation process on the proposed timetable changes. This will involve parents and carers, the region’s youth council, all school staff, trade unions, other council services, and partner organisations.

There will be focus groups, community conversations, presentations, and online questionnaires.

It was set to run from June until September, however council leader Gail Macgregor and several other councillors believe this is too tight a timescale because council staff will be diverted doing other tasks due to the general election.

Annandale South Councillor George Jamieson, the SNP group’s education spokesman, stressed that the consultation process should include research and facts from other local authorities where such timetables have already been implemented.

He added: “I get fed up of people calling it a four-and-a-half day week, it’s an asymmetric working week rather than the assumption we get a half day off.”

A restructure of the secondary school timetable would mean a slightly earlier start of 8.50am, 50 minutes of learning time for each class, and the day split into seven periods between Monday to Thursday.

On Fridays, there would be just five periods, with the first at 8.50 am and the last one finishing at 1.40 pm.

The total learning time for the week would remain the same but all 16 high schools locally would be operating under one single timetable.

The intention is to roll it out to primary schools at a later date.

It was agreed to run the consultation, extended until October 11, and then the findings will be brought back to a special council meeting in November.

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