Parent concerns over Falkirk plan to cut school hours as thousands join opposition

-Credit: (Image: PA)
-Credit: (Image: PA)


A mum who started a petition opposing Falkirk Council 's bid to cut school hours for pupils says she and other parents have serious concerns about the consultation process that began last week.

Liane Tait's petition on Change.org has now been signed by more than 3700 people opposed to the plans to reduce teaching time for Falkirk pupils.

But she is also a member of a 7000-strong Facebook group - Saving Our Schools: Falkirk - where many are not just unhappy with the proposal but also with how it is being presented to worried parents.

Read more: Pressure growing on Falkirk Council over plan to reduce hours

Last week, every school across the district gave a presentation to parents, explaining that Falkirk Council believes radical change is necessary to help the council save £62 million over the next five years.

It was also available to watch online and is now on the council's website.

But many parents felt the presentation made the change seem like a 'done deal' as it stressed that the only alternative to fewer hours will be major cuts, including support for pupils with additional needs.

Liane Tait says that many parents, including herself, felt it was unfair that headteachers were given the task of presenting the proposals, following a script.

Some headteachers tried to answer parents' questions but many of those who attended were not satisfied with the information on offer.

Liane said: "It was a council proposal and they should be presenting it to parents and be more available for actual questions and answers."

Many also felt the video was 'misleading', as it highlighted Falkirk Council's claim that eight other councils were already offering an asymmetric week, with no mention of a reduction in hours.

Liane said: "Other councils have the early finish on the Friday but they make up the other hours during the week, whereas Falkirk's proposal is a cut in hours.

"That, for sure, was not clear with the presentation in person, on-line or in the information that was given."

She added: "My feeling - and other people's feeling - was that there was a bit scaremongering - it was this 'or else' and the 'or else' would be significantly worse than this.

"But actually they weren't able to tell us the alternatives. It's being billed as a consultation but it's a consultation on this pure cut in isolation.

"In reality there will be other cuts to come - whether this cut happens or not - but we're not really being informed of that.

"Lots of parents are saying they wish they had a bit more information to be able to give educated feedback - at the moment it's all very vague."

And she says there was also "fairly overwhelming feeling" that the feedback form on Participate+ is "poor", with questions that are "fairly ambiguous".

Members of the group have also highlighted the need to click the final 'submit' button to make sure that answers are recorded, with some concerned this step would be easy to miss.

Several parents were so concerned by the 'sales pitch' nature of the presentation that they made clear they did not want it to be shown to their children.

Falkirk Council has since said that the planned engagement with children - which should have begun this week - will be delayed.

A spokesperson for the council said: "Engagements with children and young people will take place slightly later than planned to allow officers more time to reflect the parental contributions already made."

Falkirk Council says that engagement sessions took place in more than 60 establishments and many did offer a chance to ask questions.

They added: "All contributions and feedback from these sessions continues to inform the FAQs available online and parents/ carers are encouraged to submit their comments via the Council’s Participate+ system.

"It is important that any questions asked, not already contained within the FAQs, receive one, consistent answer (as opposed to any variation from establishment to establishment) and this is why we have provided a generic email address ( learningweekengagement@falkirk.gov.uk ) which will be used to regularly update the FAQs on the website."

While Liane never set out to lead the campaign, she is speaking out as she feels very strongly that the cut to learning hours will put Falkirk pupils at a disadvantage against their peers in other areas.

"My youngest child is just about to finish P1 so we have another 12 years of school in Falkirk.

"Somebody worked out that the loss of time from P1-S6 is a whole year less education than the rest of Scotland - it's going to put our kids at a disadvantage."

Her hope is that the Scottish Government will legislate the number of hours that children must be educated and she is now writing to politicians - local and national - about the issue.

"Falkirk are trying to tell us that this won't have any effect but they can't show us some facts and figures or clinical studies because it's never happened," she said.

Liane agrees that it is vital that parents make their feelings known through the Participate+ system as it is the only official way of giving feedback.

But she believes it is also crucial that people who feel strongly about the plans should write to all of Falkirk's councillors who will be the ones who ultimately make the decision.

"It doesn't need to be a fancy email, it just needs to state what their feelings are so that councillors get a feeling of what is going on in the community."

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