Pressure growing on Falkirk Council over plan to cut school hours

Monica Lennon MSP
-Credit: (Image: Hamilton Advertiser)

Political pressure is continuing to grow on Falkirk Council as it considers reducing school hours in a bid to tackle a £62 million funding gap.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon has now written to the Scottish Government minister, Jenny Gilruth, about her concerns around Falkirk Council's proposal to reduce the learning week.

The local authority is currently consulting parents about its plans to close schools at 12.30 pm on a Friday, which would mean primary pupils losing 2.5 hours and secondary pupils just under two hours of education every week.

Read more: Village school with just 11 pupils could be closed by Falkirk Council

In her letter, Ms Lennon told the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills: "I am concerned, as I know many families in my region are, about the potential impact reduced learning hours will have on pupil learning and attainment, and the additional costs for families of childcare if the Friday afternoon closure is implemented without proper mitigation plans in place."

She adds that many "concerned parents have raised their concerns around equity with other children across Scotland and real concerns around a drop in attainment".

The Central Scotland MSP has asked what action the Scottish Government will take in light of this to ensure that proposed cuts do not go ahead.

She also asked Ms Gilruth if she agreed with previous Education Secretary, Shirley-Anne Sommerville’s statement that: “Any measures that materially reduced the number of hours children spend learning in school would be expected to reduce pupil attainment and wellbeing and undermine efforts to close the poverty related attainment gap. "

Falkirk Labour councillor Euan Stainbank added: “The previous Education Secretary stated in 2023 that any reduction to school hours will lead to a reduction in attainment and undermine efforts to close the poverty related attainment gap.

"Falkirk Labour will not vote for any measure that would potentially damage our young people’s education.

“The SNP must now see that their chronic underfunding of local government is now incompatible with their supposed focus on education and step up and provide fair funding for local government now.”

The SNP government has already told Falkirk Council that any plans to cut education hours "will not be acceptable" and has said that if necessary, it will "take steps to prescribe the number of hours made available in regulations".

Falkirk Council had intended to press forward with the changes starting this August but was warned by the Cabinet Secretary for Education that it could not do so.

Presentations to parents have highlighted the need for education to make £40 million of savings over the next five years.

But there has been a huge backlash against the proposals with local councillors saying they have been inundated with comments from angry parents, while a petition has more than 3000 signatures.

Falkirk Council has stressed that the changes "are not final" and had been brought forward to "open a dialogue with stakeholders, including parents, carers and the pupils themselves".

But it has also warned that if huge changes are not made, there will be direct cuts to staffing and to services.

Parents and carers are urged to make their opinions known through the survey on Falkirk Council's website.

For more Falkirk stories, sign up to our newsletter here.