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Background Info

The reason for lodging this petition is to protect, by law, ‘the widely accepted norm’, whereby, qualified teachers teach children for 25 hours in a normal school week. This is the current precedent in Scottish education but is not required by law. This petition is asking the Scottish Parliament to make this a legal requirement.

The Schools General (Scotland) Regulations 1975 states that education must be provided for 190 days per year (Regulation 5) but is silent about the numbers of hours in the school week or the number of hours defined as education time. This loophole allowed Renfrewshire Council to adopt a policy of cutting education time and replacing it with an ‘enrichment’ programme that did not require qualified teachers. The intention of the “Revised Model for the Delivery of Primary Education’, which the Council wanted to implement in primary schools from April 2011, was to replace teachers with non-teaching staff for 2.5 hours per week in order to save the Council £1.2m. In this time children would receive an ‘enrichment programme’. This effectively meant that primary school children in Renfrewshire would lose 2.5 hours per week of education and that in this time no teachers would be present in class. Non-teaching staff were to be paid less than half that of a qualified teacher in order to make the necessary savings.

This is not merely, or specifically, a Renfrewshire issue. It is a national issue. The Renfrewshire policy was abandoned because parents and teachers opposed it – not because it was proven illegal. Current legislation does not protect from a similar proposal being introduced in Renfrewshire or elsewhere in Scotland. The issues affecting Renfrewshire have highlighted the fact that current legislation does not protect against education hours being cut by individual local authorities.

Throughout Scotland, the education of children has been entrusted to professional teachers and children have received the same amount of teaching hours (apart from in some authorities where infants have a staggered introduction to the full school week). However, education legislation does not make this a requirement. Current law states that children must be educated for 190 days. It does not define the length of the individual school day or week for pupils. It also states that teachers can only deliver ‘teaching’, but does not protect against councils cutting ’teaching time’.

The Scottish Government states that the length of the school day and week “are matters for the discretion of the education authorities. Authorities do, however, adhere to a widely accepted norm for the length of the pupil week in primary schools - 25 hours”

In the current financial climate, Councils are looking to make large reductions in spending. We are asking the Scottish Parliament to question whether the assumption ‘that local authorities will continue to deliver the widely accepted norm of 25 teaching hours’ is a good enough basis for the delivery of education. We are asking the Scottish Parliament to review current legislation and introduce new laws that require children to be taught by qualified teachers for 25 hours per week.

Without such legislation, core education will be left vulnerable to damaging cuts. Councils throughout Scotland are already looking at ways to take advantage of the lack of legislation on teaching hours and the wide interpretation of the Scotland’s new Curriculum for Excellence in order to change the structure and provision of education. Some proposals have looked at cutting the number of school days, others have looked at bringing in non-teaching staff to deliver ‘enrichment’. Without closing the loopholes in legislation, local authorities will be able to fundamentally change the very meaning and structure of education to suit their own budgetary requirements. This will lead to a fragmented Scottish education system, where quality will vary widely from region to region.

The fundamental questions we ask:

  • Should teaching time of 25 hours be protected by law?
  • Should individual local authorities be able to define the number of hours in the teaching week? Again, current Education policy states that the length of the school day and week “are matters for the discretion of the education authorities.
  • Is it acceptable that individual local authorities can, by lack of legislation, redefine what ‘education’ is (with particular reference to Renfrewshire council’s attempts to replace teaching with ‘enrichment’ for part of the school week)? The Scottish Government regarded this as a matter for local authorities to address. When asked about the issue in a national context the First Minister and the Education Secretary would not consider the wider implications.
  • Should Scotland provide an education system that is equal in its provision for all?

Further information:
A set of briefing papers entitled ‘Save our Teachers’, details the many reasons why Renfrewshire Council’s policy on the ‘Revised Model for the Delivery of Primary Education’, did not stand up to public scrutiny. These were written by Renfrewshire Parent Council Forum’s Acting Chair and can be found under ‘resources’ at the Forum’s  web site: http://renfrewshireparents.schools.officelive.com/default.aspx