A local council in Scotland has announced proposals for the future that could potentially see the school week shortened and a change in the age that students begin attending school.
Labour led North Ayrshire Council last week announced their new budget for the year 2011-2012 which took in the £8.9million in cuts they needed to make in order to close a £34million gap in funding which must be made by 2014.
As part of the plan to reduce costs the Council is proposing to cut the school week to four days for pupils in both Primary and Secondary.
Currently, according to the Schools General (Scotland) Regulations 1975, it's required that Primary school pupils spend 25 hours per week in school and Secondary school pupils spend 27.5 hours but it's up to local authority to determine the length of the school week in days. Schools, are, however, required to be open for 190 days within the year.
Although the Council points out that by reducing the school week to four days would save them £2million or more, the idea has been criticised for the possible impact that it would have on parents of children who would be at school one less day each week.
Speaking on behalf of the North Ayrshire branch secretary of Unison, Stephanie Herd said, “The four-day week is a daft idea. I hope elected members realise how ridiculous it is for pupils and for working parents.”
Also speaking out against the idea was SNP MSP Kenny Gibson who said, “I am astonished that Labour-controlled North Ayrshire Council is considering a reduction in the school working week from five to four days.
“The law makes it clear that pupils should have a minimum of 190 days a year in school. A four-day week would mean a 47.5 week year, something I doubt would be welcomed by parents, teachers or pupils. Educationally I can see no merit in this proposal which appears to be finance driven.”
Another part of the proposal is that children in the Council area would begin school at no earlier than 6-years of age, something which already occurs in other parts of Europe. Currently in Scotland children enter school at age five or, depending on their birthday, aged four.
As Carol Kirk, corporate director of education at North Ayrshire Council, points out, making the age at which students begin school higher is something that has been discussed throughout the UK before. She said, “The option for children to start school at age six has been widely discussed by education professionals and is already in operation in many other European countries. The option to deliver the statutory 25 hours of education per week over four rather than five days is also being explored by other local authorities.”
She also said about the rest of the proposals, "No decisions have been taken on these options which are for exploration only at this stage."
The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, represented by a spokeswoman, said, "There would have to be consultation with both parents and employees about a four-day week. However, this proposal would be detrimental to the education of young people, who would be expected to concentrate for extra hours every day.
“There is huge merit in formal education being deferred until the age of six, but this year would have to be replaced by high-quality nursery education, rather than being a cost-cutting exercise.”