People power has forced an Angus Council U-turn over reducing teacher contact time for children in primaries one to three.
Angus parents told The Courier about their fears over proposed cuts to direct teacher contact in the county’s primary schools.
Guardians of children aged between five and eight years old were canvassed for their opinions about a possible reduction in classroom time.
This equates to 2 hours per week or 19 days per academic year almost one month of education.
The consultation ended this month and opponents of the reductionare “delighted” by more than 1,500 responses from parents and staff.
The greatest share 61% of parents and 70% of teachers were opposed to the proposals.
Council officers advised shelving the changes but children and learningcommittee members heard a further consultation will be prepared overaligning the school day across Angus.
Convener Sheena Welsh said changes to the school day would not meanany reduction in teaching quality or attainment.
She said: “We got a total of 1,210 responses from parents and 310 from staff, which was a very good response.
“There were also two parental focus group sessions.The responses show the value of play and physical activity was recognised and supported.
“A common school day of 9am to 3.20pm across Angus was alsosupported by 78% of the respondents.
“However, the reduction in contact time to 22 hours per week for P1-3 was only supported by 39% of parents and 30% of staff, and there were concerns over the reduction in teaching contact time and the impact this could have on attainment.
“As a result of this we are seeking approval to explore common approach to timing of the school day across Angus.”
Councillor Ewan Smith said he was “pleasantly surprised” and “delighted” to see the swell of public response.
He added: “I did have real fears we were going to go the opposite wayand reduce contact time, which I think would have been a very bad road to go down.”
Mrs Welsh added: “The amountof time kids spend in school doesn’tactually mean attainment is higher.
“It’s the quality of time that’s spent that is the important thing.If you take Finland as an example, children have less time in schooleach day and overall, yet outperform our children.”
Councillor Ronnie Proctor said:“People in Kirriemuir have approached me about their concerns, and I’m pleased to see the decision not toreduce contact time for primaries one to three.”
Councillor Martyn Geddes said the decision to hold both focus groups in Forfar may have excluded some parents, and Mrs Welsh said this would inform future events of that type.
Public opinion has helped sway two budgetary decisions by the current council administration.
In March The Courier was inchambers when Angus Council reversed a 36% cut to its instrumental musicstaff after an impassioned plea from two Forfar Academy pupils.
And following a large public outcry over plans to remove equipmentfrom 50 of the county’s 101municipal play areas, councillorsrubber-stamped a move to keep funding an additional 25.