A mixed report card has been delivered for the early stages of a new timetable in Angus secondary schools.
Two terms into the new 33-period week model which gives youngsters a Friday half-day Friday, education chiefs say they are encouraged by the increasing number of youngsters taking up extra-curricular activities and the partnerships developing with groups and organisations across the district.
Fears had been raised the free time could lead to mischief-making but police say there has been no evidence of any rise in youth-related incidents on Friday afternoons since the new arrangement was put in place in August and parents have also raised few concerns.
But pupils themselves have flagged up what they feel are shortcomings in the new model, particularly around weekly personal support lessons and the flow of information around opportunities available to them.
In a report to the first Children and Learning committee of 2018, head of schools and learning Pauline Stephen said youngsters who took part in focus groups had said relationships with teachers varied.
“All young people were able to identify one key member of staff that they could talk to if they were concerned or worried. A few of the young people stated that they would choose to speak with family or friends in the first instance.
“Young people in S1 were positive about the personal support lesson. This weekly lesson is used to go over individual attendance, behaviour and progress. In many cases there is a citizenship element to the lesson.”
But the level of positivity dipped in S2 and S4, and fourth year youngsters have also raised an issue with a lack of understanding around working grades and target grades, which the official said was an area being addressed.
The report states: “The majority of head teachers have stated that the administration of attendance procedures and subsequent follow-up of pupil absence is currently proving time-consuming.
“Schools which have dedicated administrative staff to the monitoring of attendance appear to be dealing with this more effectively. “
Friday afternoon Angus Extra activities are being offered at the eight schools and the number of activities on offer has increased from 18 in term one to 22 in term two.
Term two data showed a rise in youngsters participating, including what has been described as a “significant increase” in female attendees.
The report adds: “Some of the new activities on offer reflects an increased interest from community clubs; tennis in Montrose, yoga in Carnoustie and cricket in Arbroath”
“Community Learning and Development (CLD) spent three months engaging in street work with young people in order to ascertain how they are spending Friday afternoons.
“Across the eight clusters CLD engaged with approximately 450 young people. CLD established three new youth work projects on a Friday afternoon in term two.
“One project has been targeted at vulnerable young people in Arbroath and the other two groups are being facilitated by parent volunteers.
”A full evaluation of the changes to the secondary school week will be conducted at end of session and reported to committee in September 2018. This will include gathering pupil, parent and staff views.”