MACDONALD USES PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION TO SLAM FALKIRK COUNCIL’S ‘LUDICROUS’ PROPOSAL TO REDUCE PRIMARY SCHOOL HOURS
Thursday, 19 March 2015 11:14
CABINET SECRETARY CONFIRMS “SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT WOULD NOT SUPPORT ANY STEPS TAKEN BY FALKIRK COUNCIL TO CUT THE LENGTH OF THE SCHOOL WEEK”
Falkirk East MSP Angus MacDonald has used time allocated in the Scottish Parliament to slam Falkirk Council’s threat to reduce the primary school week from 25 hours to 22.5 in 2016/17.
Despite Falkirk Council announcing a U-turn on the plans after Mr MacDonald had tabled the question in Parliament, the Falkirk East MSP decided to continue to highlight to the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Angela Constance at Education Portfolio Questions the folly of the proposal, and the negative impact such a move would have on the attainment levels of primary school children in Falkirk district.
Speaking after his question in the Chamber yesterday Angus MacDonald said:
“I was determined to bring this matter to the attention of the Cabinet Secretary Angela Constance and have it recorded on the official record in the Parliament Chamber, to ensure this ludicrous proposal by Labour-Tory controlled Falkirk Council was highlighted for all to see.
“I was delighted to hear the Cabinet Secretary state that the Scottish Government would not support any steps taken by Falkirk Council or other councils to cut the length of the school week with a view to reducing teacher numbers. Such a statement should help to concentrate the minds of Falkirk Councillors who would rather use the education of primary school children for political gain rather than concentrate on ensuring attainment levels are increased.”
“Parents of primary school children in Falkirk district will not forgive those Labour and Tory politicians in Falkirk’s Municipal Chambers who unnecessarily created anxiety and confusion with this crazy proposal.”
The transcript of the exchange with Angus MacDonald MSP and the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning is detailed below:
Primary School Week Reduction (Falkirk)
15. Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP):
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with Falkirk Council regarding its proposal to reduce the primary school week from 25 to 22.5 hours in 2016-17. (S4O-04138)
The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Angela Constance):
Falkirk Council wrote to the Deputy First Minister on 19 February 2015 to confirm its commitment to maintain teacher numbers. Falkirk Council has confirmed to us its 2016-17 provisional budget proposal to reduce the primary school week from 25 hours to 22.5 hours from August 2016, which will deliver a reduction in teacher costs. However, we understand that discussions are on-going locally regarding the implications of that change. As the member will be aware, statutory responsibility for the provision of education rests with individual local authorities, which includes the requirement that all schools must be open for 190 days.
I am pleased to tell the cabinet secretary that, following my lodging of this question last week, Falkirk Council has quietly announced a U-turn on its ludicrous proposal to reduce primary school hours. I am sure that, like me, she welcomes the climb-down. Will she impress upon all local authorities that she meets that playing local politics with children’s attainment, and creating anxiety among parents who want the best for their children, is not a clever tactic, even for the Labour-Tory coalition in Falkirk?
Although statutory responsibility for the provision of education rests with local authorities, I do indeed welcome the change of heart. It is imperative that local authorities demonstrate to parents and to the wider community that any changes of this nature have an educational benefit and that their proposals are in the best interest of children. I have consistently made clear that the Government would not support any steps taken by Falkirk Council or other councils to cut the length of the school week with a view to reducing teacher numbers. The Government has made it clear that we are committed to raising attainment and to closing the attainment gap. That is an aspiration that I believe we can all unite behind. I do not believe that reducing teacher numbers is the best way to achieve it.