Ma­jor­ity against pro­posal to cut school week hours

The Oban Times - - News - EMMA CRICHTON ecrich­ton@oban­times.co.uk

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.’

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