Head teacher backs new school week plan

Berwickshire High School
Berwickshire High School

Berwickshire High School head teacher John Clarke has welcomed moves to begin a four-and-a-half-day school week next year.

Scottish Borders Council’s proposal for primary and secondary schools across the region is designed to “make more efficient use of resources” by reducing staff costs and bringing timetables into alignment.

The plan involves Monday to Thursday becoming longer days, with Friday becoming a short day. But the total number of hours spent in class each week would remain the same.

The local authority says the changes are needed ahead of what is expected to be a “significant reduction in budgets for both primary and secondary education in the years ahead.”

But the ‘asymmetric week’ will also open up more opportunities for e-learning and shared teaching between high schools.

“It will enable secondary schools to look at ways and means of ensuring that we keep the breadth of the curriculum available to our pupils” explained Mr Clarke.

“The size of the cuts are significant. We need to eventually look at ways of schools cooperating with each other. It means looking at an aligned timetable.

“It won’t mean every secondary school will run exactly the same timetable, but parts of the timetable will be aligned.”

In the longer term, Mr Clarke hopes the proposal will open up the possibility of pupils travelling to other schools or taking part in a lesson by video conference if the subject they want to study is not available at their own high school.

“An asymmetric week where all the schools are aligned gives us that ability to offer pupils as good a choice as we can possibly offer them,” he added.

“Yes, we’ve got cut, and we’re trying to save, but the priority is making sure our pupils don’t lose out. We’re trying to do everything possible to alleviate that pressure for them.

“Secondary head teachers are all very supportive because they see it as a mechanism to make staffing more efficient in all secondary high schools.”

Glenn Rodger, SBC’s director of education and lifelong learning, said: “It will enable better planning and preparation for school improvements. It would mean teachers would have the time to plan and implement curriculum changes.

“All head teachers within the authority are in support of such a move.”

Councillors also believe changes to school opening hours will make transport more efficient.

Mr Clarke added: “It will enable us to align transport across secondary and primary schools. So there will be no wasted time for staff and pupils at the end of the day.”

Consultation with parents, staff and other stakeholders will begin in January and February. A full report will go back to council in March.