Significant changes are due to be made to secondary school timetables, which could offer pupils an early home time on Friday afternoons.
SIC staff are moving towards a new system, which should see schools operate a slightly longer day from Monday to Thursday, with a shorter day on Friday from in May 2018.
The council says there will be no change to the overall time pupils spend in the classroom. The school week will be divided into 33, 50-minute periods.
Council officials say the new common timetable structure will only be for secondary schools, but admit the alterations could potentially affect the primary departments of Brae High School and the junior highs.
The thinking behind the move has come from the Shetland Learning Partnership – the body set up in 2014 to create new opportunities for learning, principally in secondary education in Shetland.
The main advantages are said to be:
• Fifty minute periods provide good time for teachers to review, introduce, teach and evaluate lessons.
• A 33 period week makes the best use of teachers’ contractual time, with up to 27 timetabled periods and six periods of non-contact time.
• Pupils living in the halls of residence are able to travel home on a Friday afternoon rather than Friday evening.
• The common timetable helps planning for staff working in more than one school, and provides consistency across all secondary schools.
Head teachers from the Anderson High School, Baltasound Junior High School, Brae High School, Mid Yell Junior High School and Sandwick Junior High School are already discussing the future shape of school days with their parent councils.
The council hopes to have all the school day timings set by next April, with information then shared with parents.
What may be unknown at this point is what impact an early Friday finish will have on working parents and their employers. But officials from Children’s Services say they will discuss the changes with employers, as well as the college sector.
Shetland Recreational Trust, Shetland Arts, the voluntary sector, local teaching and other unions, and child-care providers are also due to be kept in the loop.
Staff have also been working with their colleagues in transport to plan for the changes.
Meanwhile, SIC’s youth services are working with young people to explore the opportunities for Friday afternoon activities to take account of the earlier end to the secondary school day.
Quality improvement officer, Robin Calder, is leading the project.
He said “an enormous” amount of work was going into making sure the new structure met the needs of pupils, teachers and parents, as well as employers and unions.
Mr Calder added that work would continue over the next 18 months with the aim of making the transition as smooth as possible. He urged any parents wishing to talk through the changes to contact their head teacher.
We’re looking at Friday afternoon activities, that may be an option for some children. ROBIN CALDER
“We’ve had discussions with parent councils, and invited all secondary parent councils to an event at the end of October. We’ve talked them through the changes. We had a period of engagement in 2015.
“We’re going to continue to engage with employers around the changes. We’re looking at Friday afternoon activities, that may be an option for some children.”
He said the benefits of the system was that all staff would be working within the same “timetable structure”.
“If a member of staff is working in more than one school, it is an advantage to them to have the same timetable structure.
“The actual timings of the school day may be slightly different between the schools, but the overarching structure is the same.”
Director of Children’s Services, Helen Budge, added: “We have had schools already that have been working with this system, in Whalsay and in Aith, and it has worked very successfully there. To roll it out across all of our schools, that uniformity will be a benefit.”