Timetable changes shelved by council

CONTROVERSIAL plans to move all secondary schools to a 33-period week have been scrapped – for now.

The proposals had been discussed by head teachers and senior officials from Scottish Borders Council’s education department since March.

But at a meeting this week it was agreed, after “some challenges” were identified during this process, to maintain the current timetable arrangements for the school session 2012/13.

The high school currently operates a 30-period week.

Under the plans there would have been seven periods on a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 8.50am to 3.40pm. But on Wednesdays and Fridays there would be just six periods, from 8.50am to 2.50pm, with no registration class.

Executive member for education – and Hawick councillor – George Turnbull explained: “We recognise that changes to the school week, no matter how small they may be, could have a varying impact on a range of stakeholders.

“That became clear during the initial stages of the consultation where a range of challenges emerged. It is therefore crucial that we take more time to look at the various options and issues in more detail.

“We also need to ensure we carry out a wider engagement exercise with a range of stakeholders including parents, teachers, pupils and employers to ensure any recommendations are well-informed and the impact of any changes is properly taken into account.”

It was felt there was a need to harmonise the school day across all secondary schools with the aim of meeting the need for flexibility required by Curriculum for Excellence – to provide a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum for three-to-18-year-olds.

Among the potential problems were issues over removing registration, transport and the effects moving the lunch-time would have on extra curricular music and local businesses.

High school rector Alan Williamson welcomed this week’s decision. He said: “I would be loathed to support a new structure that does not have the support of our staff or the community. It is a wise decision to allow more thinking time and to explore other ways of delivering an alternative school day.

“Any argument for change needs to convince pupils, staff and parents that it is ‘better’ than the existing set up.”

And Darren Thomson, chairman of the parent council, added: “We put forward our thoughts on what further discussion needed to take place around the numerous potential problems – all of which we felt were surmountable – and I am pleased to hear that SBC has decided to delay its implementation until these issues have been properly worked through.”

A further report for consideration by the education executive committee, which will detail any recommended changes including a proposed implementation date, will be presented at a later date.