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Schools set to go half day Fridays

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Schools set to go half day Fridays

A RESTRUCTURE of secondary school timetables across Dumfries and Galloway could see pupils and staff benefitting from an early finish on a Friday.

After a lengthy consultation process, firm plans are now on the table for a newly-designed four-and-a-half day school timetable which would “improve work-life balance” for both teachers and benefit pupils.

If approved, the proposals would mean a slightly earlier start of 8.50am for period one lessons, 50 minutes of learning time for each class, and the day split into seven periods between Monday to Thursday. A 20-minute interval would begin at 10.30am and lunch would run from 1.20pm to 2pm with the day ending at 3.40 pm.

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

The total learning time for the week would 1650 minutes (just under 28 hours) and all 16 high schools would finally be operating under one single timetable.

The plan is to implement the new timetable from June 2025 – and to bring primary schools into alignment too as education chiefs weigh up the benefits for pupils.

A report, due to be tabled at the council’s education committee next week, reads: “There could be benefits to aligning primary schools, for example improvements to the

health and wellbeing of children by finishing early on Friday when children tend to be more tired, improved take-up of out-of-school activities on Friday afternoons like sports or social clubs, or accessing other providers like ‘forest schools’.”

Calls have been made for over a year now for shorter days in Dumfries and Galloway’s secondary schools to improve work-life balance for both teachers and pupils.

These ‘curriculum transformation’ plans also take into account the Scottish Government’s aim to reduce teacher contact time from 22.5 hours per week to 21 hours.

Council education chiefs ran a consultation between April and June last year, which asked teachers, parents, and pupils for their views on changes to the current timetable model.

Out of around 700 pupils who responded to the consultation, most were in favour of changing the school week. Only 29.5 percent of respondents favoured the status quo, while 42.4 per cent favoured the four-and-a-half days option on the table, and 28.1 percent wanted a four-day week – with Friday off completely.

A timetable working group was then set up to produce a learning schedule that could be adopted by all secondary schools.

The report produced for next week’s education committee states: “Currently the 16 secondary schools in Dumfries and Galloway have a variety of timetable structures. Some of the timetables enable schools to deliver a perfectly efficient timetable model in relation to allocation of teaching time, others do not.

“The lack of alignment of the secondary school timetables reduces the potential for collaborate working between our secondary schools and other curriculum delivery partners.”

Councillors sitting on the education committee will be asked to approve the new timetable, and agree for a further report to be brought back to the August education meeting on aligning the primary school working week with it too.

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