SNP manifesto blunder over contact time creates a stir

Apparent SNP pledge to reduce contact time by 90 minutes per day turns out to be an error – the party meant per week

Henry Hepburn

Scottish election 2021: An SNP manifesto blunder over teacher contact time has caused a stir

A line in the SNP election manifesto promising a reduction in teachers' contact time has created a stir online after it mistakenly referred to the reduction applying over a day rather than a week.

The manifesto, published today, stated: "We will recruit at least 3,500 additional teachers and classroom assistants and reduce teachers' daily contact time by an hour and a half to give them the time they need to lift standards."

Some teachers responded enthusiastically online about a move that could be "transformational", but others were more sceptical and queried whether the manifesto had included a mistake and should have referred to "weekly" rather than "daily" contact time.

Just before 5.30pm this evening, after Tes Scotland asked for confirmation on whether it had meant to refer to 90 minutes of weekly or daily contact time, the SNP confirmed that an error had been made: the hour and a half was to be applied across a week, not a single day. A spokesperson said the mistake in the manifesto would be corrected.

Background: Teaching time way above average in Scotland

And they're off: Parties' education policies at the start of the election campaign

Election promises: Who are the parties pitching them at?

Another world: What if teachers wrote manifestos?

Scottish election 2021: SNP manifesto for education

Scottish election 2021: Greens’ manifesto for education

One tweet from before the clarification was made (see image below for how the mistake appeared), read: "This would be a most welcome move but where will schools find the additional staff to backfill the teaching requirements?"

Scottish election 2021: SNP mistake over teacher contact time

Another said: "If it happened, it could bring about a transformational change. However, I am sceptical that the numbers could be recruited and retained across all areas of Scotland to sustain it. I love the idea, but unsure how achievable it is."

SNP manifesto error

The "90 minutes extra non-contact time for teachers to develop, plan, observe peers, read etc, would be absolutely amazing", another response said.

Some responses looked at if and how the policy could be made to work, with one saying: "There's a group of around 2,000 unemployed/zero-hour contracted teachers who've been refused permanent contracts  through no fault of their own. We could start there, plus the new cohort of NQTs (newly-qualified teachers)."

Another educator tweeted that "additional teachers would make so much more of an impact by reducing class sizes", and several others said they were disappointed not to see any reference to reducing class sizes.

And one said that they did not see the benefit of "less contact for the children with the person who the school has selected to be the best person to be their teacher".

Another anticipated the error that was later confirmed by the SNP: "An error surely? Must have meant weekly."

This tweet made a similar point: "I would guess this [reduction in contact time] would be by an hour and a half off the total across a week. 90 minutes a day would be incredibly difficult to implement, especially in rural areas that already struggle to attract staff."

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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