23rd October 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Teaching union slams proposed school timetable changes

A teaching union has slammed a proposed new school timetable structure, insisting the plans will see teachers being taken out of the classroom to pay for increased transport costs estimated to stand at almost £140,000.

Local Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) representative Matthew Moss has spoken out against “asymmetric” timetables, a report on which went before members of the SIC children and families committee.

The aim is to see Shetland’s secondary schools make up their working weeks with 33 50-minute periods from 29th May.

The new structure is already under way in Aith Junior High School and Whalsay School.

Under the plans – due to go before the policy and resources committee and the full council – schools will face a slightly longer day from Mondays to Thursdays, and a shorter day on Fridays.

Hayfield staff and elected representatives have pointed to benefits they see behind the move, with teachers making better use of their time in school and pupils benefiting from the 50-minute periods.

The shorter Fridays are also seen as beneficial for youngsters in the Anderson High School Halls of Residence, who would appreciate getting home earlier during the winter months when the weather is bad.

But the estimated cost associated with the new timetable system is believed to stand at £139,126. Some operators say they require more, or bigger, buses – especially where service buses tie in with inter-island ferry times.

A report by quality improvement officer Robin Calder stated that children’s services would reduce its secondary teaching full-time equivalent cohort to meet the transport costs.

He insisted that would only take place through “natural wastage”, but the plans have nonetheless angered EIS representatives.

Mr Moss said: “We’re not opposed, in principle, to the asymmetric, or the common, timetable. But we are concerned about a lack of detail, and we’re concerned also about the financial implications in the report as well.

“We find it unacceptable that one-off and recurring costs for transport should be met by a reduction in teaching numbers.

“We’ve had a number of years of teaching numbers reductions in Shetland, particularly in the secondary sector. We’ve seen an increase now in primary because of pupil numbers, but in secondary we are still a lot of teachers down from where we were.

“So to see these costs being met by further reductions is extremely worrying.

“For children’s services to be proposing something which takes teachers out of the classroom to cover transport costs is always going to be a concern to us.”

However, following today’s meeting Mr Calder said teaching unions had been consulted during the process.

“There is currently unused class contact time that this timetable structure will tackle,” he said.

“Any reduction through teaching would be done through natural wastage – would be done when people retired or moved on from the local authority. We’d be looking at the requirements for each individual post.

“I think it would be worth pointing out that teaching unions have been involved in the asymmetric working week and the curriculum structure.

“We’ve had a focus group which consisted of school managers, teaching unions, officers, parents – they have been very much part of the development of these plans.”

Director of children’s services Helen Budge insisted the aim was to make the service “more efficient”.

She added that two schools were already running the programme successfully.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

View other stories by »

Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to editorial@shetlandtimes.co.uk for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.