Plans to review the secondary school week in Fife and potentially reduce the time pupils spend in the classroom will hit every single family hard, a union has warned.
Teaching union the EIS has expressed concern over savings proposals put forward by education officials that could see timetables cut.
Backers say the idea, if taken on board as part of the budget process next month, would give schools the potential to “harmonise” timetables, but opponents fear it could be the first step towards a four-and-a-half day week – an arrangement to which the likes of Edinburgh City Council has already moved.
St Columba’s RC High in Dunfermline is the only Fife school to have switched to an asymmetrical week, but Madras College in St Andrews plans to cut five minutes from the start and end of the day, with a longer interval and lunch for senior school pupils.
Other schools are also said to be examining tweaks to their timetables to see where savings can be made.
With Fife Council facing an estimated £15.3 million budget gap this year, David Farmer, EIS Fife publicity officer, said the review proposal had nothing to do with harmonisation but everything to do with budgetary pressures.
He said: “Any change to the secondary school week impacts most directly on lower income families where pressure to take time off work or pay for expensive childcare to look after children not at school can be most damaging.
“That said, all families will be impacted.
“We also wonder how cutting the time children are in school can be, in any way, beneficial to learning, particularly in respect of those young people studying for SQA courses. Parents, we are sure, will be mindful of this.
“This is about saving money, not about improving services for our young people.”
As with other proposed education cuts which have been made public, Fife Council co-leader Labour councillor David Ross once again stressed that there is a “significant difference” between proposals tabled and what is accepted by the administration.
Mr Ross noted: “Understandably the EIS are campaigning in the run up to our budget, as they see it, to protect the interests of their members.
“As a council, we have to take a much wider view of how best to protect the full range of council services when our core budget is being cut.
“All these proposals are still under consideration and should any of them be agreed, there will be further discussion on how they would be implemented to minimise any negative impacts.
“It isn’t helpful for the EIS to jump to unjustified conclusions based on partial information.”
Fellow co-leader SNP councillor David Alexander stressed savings had to be made but that the administration was open to ideas.
“We face this speculation every year. We also have to put forward a balanced budget. Any suggestions on how we achieve that would be welcome.”