Majority against proposal to cut school week hours
ALL HIGHLAND Council offices and schools could close at lunchtime on a Friday as part of cost cutting proposals by the local authority.
Members of a Citizens Panel have been asked for their views on reducing the council working pattern to four and a half days, to make savings using less heat, light and power.
Most staff would still work their existing contracted hours but some could be given the option of reducing their hours as part of the scheme to plug the £21 million funding gap for next year’s budget. Highland Council chief executive Steve Barron said: ‘It is important to note that this is currently a proposal only, one which needs further work and which would only be implemented with the agreement of elected members in February. Clearly there will be some service areas where this could pose practical difficulties, hence the wish to consult and to think carefully about impact and feasibility.’
But in a poll conducted on the Highland Council’s Facebook page just days before, a massive majority said they would be opposed to reducing the school week.
The survey asked ‘If we can protect services by reducing the primary school week to 22.5 hours (over 4.5 days) which is the nationally agreed class contact time for teachers, would this be acceptable to you?’
Of the 428 respondents, a massive 357 (83.41 per cent) said no, just 66 (15.42 per cent) said yes and five (1.17 per cent) said don’t know.
Many people raised concerns about the impact this would have on working families, particularly added childcare costs, for Friday afternoons when pupils wouldn’t be at school.
The survey was part of a series of Facebook ‘chats’ run by the local authority to gauge opinions on how to save money, ahead of the budget to be set next February.
When asked where savings should be made, most people (71.72 per cent) said cuts should not be made equally across services in schools, additional support, children’s social work and adult social work.
Of those who said cuts should not be made equally, 63.16 per cent said schools should be protected, both additional support needs and children’s social work were selected by 15.79 per cent each and 5.36 per cent asked adult social work not to be cut.
Drew Millar, chairman of Highland Council’s education, children and adult services committee, said: ‘We are currently looking at a wide range of proposals and ideas to save money and increase income, while protecting the most essential of services as far as possible. Some of the proposals include difficult choices we really would rather not have to make, however, we have very significant savings to make, to balance our reducing budget.
‘The feedback through Facebook is helpful and we will take that into account along with other ways of gauging public views, whether face to face or through other surveys.’