By Professional Officer (Scotland) Dougie Atkinson
The Scottish Government has announced its intention to amend the Education Bill currently before Parliament to allow Ministers to regulate for every primary school pupil to receive a minimum of 25 hours with teachers per week. [Debate in Committee on the amendment to enshrine 25 hours: Amendment 164.]
Currently, local authorities are required to open schools for 190 days each year, with the length and structure of the school day not specified in legislation. This would mean that primary school pupils across Scotland would be guaranteed at least 950 hours a year of teaching time. This power would also allow Ministers to put in place a minimum of hours in secondary schools. Voice Scotland will be monitoring this proposal as it moves forward, and has written to the Education and Culture Committee and the Scottish Government to seek clarification. Voice Scotland's email to the Education and Culture Committee and the Scottish Government:
"While we understand the principle behind the proposal and broadly welcome any attempt to protect the contact time between teachers and pupils, we do have some concerns about the interpretation of the legislation and how it will work in practice. They fall in 3 broad areas:
"Firstly, while the amendments define the circumstances when the 25 hours need not be met (part school weeks for example), it also refers to further details to be included in regulations. For example, it refers to a registered teacher or 'an individual who meets such requirements as to training, qualifications, experience or position as may be specified in regulations made by the Scottish Ministers'. Who might such a person be? Music instructor? Will we be consulted on the content of those regulations?
"Secondly, the amendment does not attempt to define what a 'class' is. Would this include such things as school trips, assemblies, sports days etc?
"Lastly, it is also not clear over the issue of enforcement – who would be held in breach if the 25 hours contact was not achieved? The headteacher of the school? The local authority? The parent who takes a child out of school for some reason?
"We would very much like to see some clarity on some of these issues before committing to legislation a provision that may or may not have unintended consequences."
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