Worry for parents as Falkirk Council unveils plans to cut school hours

Falkirk Council plans to cut the school week to save cash -Credit:Shared Content Unit
Falkirk Council plans to cut the school week to save cash -Credit:Shared Content Unit

Worried Falkirk parents say that 'engagement sessions' to tell them more about plans to cut the number of hours pupils are in school are not being transparent about the change.

One parent says he is so concerned at Falkirk Council' s plans that he is "very likely" to move from the area to another council if the changes go ahead.

Falkirk schools are holding information sessions this week - online and in-person - to tell parents more about the plan to reduce the number of hours pupils are in school, by finishing at lunchtime on Fridays.

Read more: Parents 'outraged' over Falkirk plans to cut the school week by half a day

Information videos and a link to the survey are now live on Falkirk Council's website.

In the presentation, Falkirk Council tells parents that the current financial climate means "changes must happen".

The video states: "We cannot provide everything we currently do with less money - it's simply not possible."

With services expected to cost £64 million more than the council will receive over the next five years, education has been asked to cut spending by £40 million.

"There is no other way - we cannot make the necessary savings if we continue as we are," the video says.

Parents and staff are being told that the council's financial position means that any alternatives would inevitably mean support staff being cut in primary and secondary and the curriculum reduced in secondary.

But the council has has been criticised for offering the 45-minute briefings with no opportunity for questions.

Concerned parent Iain Wallace, who has a child at Wallacestone Primary, says he also feels that the information in the council's Q&A being shared is 'selective'.

He said: "I'll keep an open mind but the consultation feels very rushed. If I was being unkind I'd say it was almost like propaganda, as opposed to being open and honest.

Mr Wallace also believes that all of the information avoids one vital question: will Falkirk Council pupils be disadvantaged?

He said: "This is the crucial question and they didn't even attempt to answer it.

"From my reading of the Q&A there are absolutely no negative impacts of the proposed change or even the slightest hint of a risk. This simply isn’t credible or honest."

Mr Wallace added: "I'll be honest, I'm fairly sure we will chose to move and leave the area if Falkirk Council go ahead with this."

Several parents on social media have also criticised the council's claim that several other councils across Scotland successfully operate an 'asymmetric week'.

One said: "Other councils have changed things to offer the same amount of hours across different days. None of them has cut the hours the way Falkirk Council is proposing."

A graphic being shared through the Saving Our Schools: Falkirk Facebook group says they want to highlight how much time will actually be lost to pupils.

They point out that for a pupil starting in P1 and finishing in S6, over the years, the change will actually mean them losing out on more than a year's classroom time.

Other parents have concerns about whether there will be adequate childcare on Friday afternoons and how much it will add to the cost.

Falkirk Council says "the engagement process will include discussions with childcare providers and other partners".

Participate+ is now open for feedback and the final date to submit comments is Friday, June 28 at noon.

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: "We understand parents and carers are concerned about the potential impacts of proposed changes to the school week on their children's education.

"Please be assured that these changes are not final and have been brought forward to open a dialogue with stakeholders, including parents, carers and the pupils themselves.

"The ultimate goal of any proposed change is to address the council's significant budget deficit, which stands at £62.5m, as reported in February 2024, while continuing to ensure high-quality education for all our pupils.

"Starting this week, we will engage extensively with parents and carers through meetings held in every school to discuss the proposed changes. Information will also be available on the council's website and all parents and carers will be invited to share their views.

"Your input is crucial and will shape the proposals that will be presented to Councillors for consideration in September.”

The final decision will be taken by members of Falkirk Council at a meeting in September.

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