Four-and-a-half-days plan for North Lanarkshire secondary pupils

Timetabled classes are set to be removed from one afternoon per week from August 2021 under the budget-cutting plan according to reports in the Daily Record.

Secondary school pupils across Monklands could to move to a four-and-a-half-day week under plans currently being developed by North Lanarkshire Council.

The authority is to reconfigure existing class time into a new standardised timetable of 32 periods per week in high schools, in a budget move to save £1.73 million over two years.

Consultation with parents is now due to take place during the autumn term, with education officials planning to launch the new-look school week in August 2021.

An update on the project was presented to the latest virtual meeting of North Lanarkshire’s education committee, held under delegated powers by chief executive Des Murray.

The report on the change said: “The four-and-a-half day week is an important evolution of curricular arrangements in North Lanarkshire.

“It will facilitate an afternoon of personal achievement, with structured offerings open to pupils in the fields of employability, music and arts, outdoor education and leadership development.

“It should be seen as an opportunity to strengthen the offering to pupils and to enable a more structured personal development programme.”

Now consultation is getting underway, including “determining which should be the half day in the week”, with the report adding: “It is hoped that the release of this time will help to support collegiate activity and address bureaucracy issues.

“Consulting with parents will be conducted on a school-by-school basis in the new academic session, with a view to implementing new arrangements in August 2021.

“Options processes for 2021 will be planned based on the updated curricular arrangements in schools.”

The report adds: “Naturally, such arrangements are subject to being affected by the Covid-19 emergency and recovery periods”, and adds that the new secondary timetable would start in a year’s time “assuming the national recovery period is concluded by that point”.

Switching to the new timetable with an afternoon free of classes for pupils was agreed by councillors in February’s budget as a cost-cutting measure; it pre-dates the coronavirus pandemic and is not related the home schooling and blended learning models developed throughout last term.

The Labour administration’s budget paper proposed the saving by saying that it would “facilitate transformative practice” and implement “a revised school week timetable configuration which maximises teacher class-teaching time”.

It added: “Under this model, there will be one afternoon per week without timetabled classes; similar models have been adopted in other councils.”

The move is part of a North Lanarkshire-wide review of the school curriculum, aiming to focus on issues such as including employment pathways, digital learning and addressing the poverty-related attainment gap.

Education officials “have ambitions to significantly raise attainment through improving curricular arrangements”, with the report adding: “Raising attainment, success in participating in programmes of personal achievement and leaving school to a positive destination are important barometers of success.

“In the current climate, curricular delivery is subject to the national emergency [of] Covid-19; in this context, the curriculum review has a special emphasis, in that it will underpin the digital offering to pupils, parents and teachers and support the recovery process when it begins.

“The enhanced curriculum [aims] to ensure employability pathways are available to all young people during their schooling and that these are informed by employer engagement and are demand-led – this is especially important.

“Over a quarter of North Lanarkshire children live in poverty; the poverty-related attainment gap experienced by young people comes from and reinforces an economic gap that will affect how their lives develop.”

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