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MacDonald welcomes Scottish Government action to stop Falkirk Council reducing school hours

Angus MacDonald MSP has welcomed moves by the Scottish Government which will allow Ministers to regulate for every primary school pupil to benefit from a minimum of 25 hours with teachers per week and to ensure consistency in clothing grant provision across Scotland. The amendments to the Education (Scotland) Bill which is currently at stage 2 in the Scottish Parliament will prevent local authorities from reducing the length of the week in primary schools and put in place a minimum number of hours in secondary schools.

This move follows attempts earlier this year by Falkirk Council to reduce the number of teaching hours per week from 25 to 22.5

The amendment gives legislative effect to what is already in place in most areas and will protect current provision, which for most children is 25 hours per week. Primary school pupils across Scotland will be guaranteed at least 950 hours a year (equivalent to 25 hours a week) of teaching time.

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At the time of the proposal by Falkirk Council to reduce the number of school hours Angus MacDonald MSP raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament chamber with the Education Secretary Angela Constance, describing the proposal as ‘ludicrous’. Falkirk Council meekly backed down following pressure from angry and astonished parents and the Scottish Government.

Welcoming the news, Angus MacDonald MSP said, "I am pleased the Scottish Government has taken this assertive action which will prevent Falkirk Council from ever coming back with such a ludicrous proposal. The Scottish Government’s amendment to the Education Bill will prevent local authorities such as Falkirk Council from reducing the length of the week in primary schools and put in place a minimum number of hours in secondary schools.

“I congratulate the Education Secretary Angela Constance on taking this action and thank her for listening when I raised my concerns in Parliament earlier this year, when the threat from Falkirk Council was very real."

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Mr. MacDonald continued, “If we are to continue making progress in boosting educational achievement and, critically, to make quicker progress in closing the attainment gap then the ludicrous idea of cutting school hours is clearly not the answer.

“Decisions on the amount of time with teachers, in class and at school should always be made based on the potential educational benefit for children, rather than on how much money can be saved.

“The Scottish Government will now legislate to provide certainty for pupils, parents and teachers about the length of the school week – a teacher time guarantee that every one of our children and young people should expect, and which they deserve.

“The Scottish Government is acting on clear concerns from parents and teachers about proposals in a number of areas to cut the school week, reducing the amount of time teachers support children’s learning.”

Also welcoming the news EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, "The EIS warmly welcomes the Scottish Government's announcement that it will legislate the length of the primary pupil week to ensure it will remain at 25 hours…This important piece of legislation is good news for pupils and parents as it will guarantee equity of provision across the country and will also ensure that teachers' jobs and pupils’ learning time are protected.” (EIS press release, 2nd December 2015)

Other amendments which the Scottish Government is bringing forward to the Education Bill before Parliament will allow Ministers to make regulations to ensure consistency in clothing grant provision across Scotland. There is a very real cost to parents struggling to make ends meet is school uniforms therefore this provision will provide welcome support for families impacted by austerity, putting money back into the pockets of families who need it most.

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Welcoming the move, Angus MacDonald MSP said, “This is good news for parents in Falkirk district. It will ensure there is no postcode lottery for the provision of school clothing grants, helping to eliminate financial barriers to education.

“Crucially, it will also ensure the continuation of grants locally at a time when we know Falkirk Council is actively considering cutting provision to save money.

"To ensure Falkirk Council and other local authorities are not tempted to reduce the provision of school clothing grants the Scottish Government will introduce a regulation-making power which would mean Ministers can set specific criteria for this provision.”

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2017

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