Changing school day too costly at £500,000

the 33-period school week piloted at Berwickshire High School has been deemed too expensive to be rolled out to the other eight secondary schools in the Borders.

Although it was agreed by Scottish Borders education officials and councillors that moving to a standard 33-period week across all secondary schools would give maximum educational advantages to schools and pupils, it has emerged that implementation costs – in the region of £500,000 – is too high.

Changing to the new timetable would involve reorganising school transport and catering services as the preferred 33-period option would mean the school day finishing at 3.50pm Monday to Thursday and an early finish at 1.20pm on a Friday.

The advantages include greater flexibility provided by the three extra periods, some of which could be used for extra support for pupils. All schools following the same structure and an early finish, thought to be likely to improve the health and well-being of staff and pupils, are other potential benefits. However, individual schools are now being left to come up with the best solution for structuring their school week.

In a report to the Scottish Borders Council’s education committee this week, senior education officer Ken Gray and planning and performance manager Colin Easton said: “Although head teachers and education officers identified that a move to a standard 33-period week across all nine secondary schools would bring significant educational advantages, the additional cost of implementing such a proposal would put too much pressure on existing budgets.

“It was felt on this occasion that the financial risk of such a move outweighed the identified educational advantages.

“Secondary schools will be encouraged to seek opportunities to work with colleagues across the authority to seek opportunities for timetable alignment.”

Secondary school heads and senior officials have been working on the new structure since March last year, largely to try and overcome the increasing demands of accommodating the Curriculum for Excellence.

However, by December last year the major financial challenge became apparent, which as well as the practical costs of transport and catering also included the need for an extended consultation period with teachers, parents and pupils, which would have further increased costs.

Berwickshire High School has been operating the 33-period timetable since June last year and will continue until the end of the school year. It has involved school finishing at 3.20pm rather than 3.45pm two days a week; pupils travelling by bus getting home about ten minutes earlier than normal.