After-school review ordered
A three-month investigation, likely to begin in the autumn, will try to tease out the anomalies between supported study and other after-hours work. Teachers involved in clubs, music and sport have already expressed disquiet at payment disparities, although many are happy with their voluntary contributio n. Staff involved in supported study are paid the evening class rate.
Roger Stewart, director of education, said supported study had spread to all secondaries and to some primaries. "It has challenged the school day and we think it is now time to bring this altogether. It is not just about mugging up homework. We want to try to tie the whole lot in, including sport and the arts," Mr Stewart said.
Government cash available through the national lottery for homework clubs and supported study, worth o3 million over the next three years, was helping to drive the review, along with the substantial sums locked up in the new Excellence Fund announced by ministers last month. The fund is seen as a Scottish Office treasure chest for special initiatives and Mr Stewart believes the council could be able to tap in into it.
West Lothian may consider paying more staff, although Mr Stewart said: "Voluntarism will always survive whatever plans we make to pay some people."
It should not automatically be assumed teachers would run supported study or other after-school activities. "There are a number of other people who could be involved in extending the school day," Mr Stewart said.
To date, schools have been left to decide how to use whatever cash they have been able to winkle for supported study out of devolved budgets, the Prince's Trust or local businesses. A o500, 000 council challenge fund has spawned various initiatives.
In Glasgow, where supported study has been established for around eight years and has now extended to all secondaries, teachers are paid around o17 an hour for after-hours work. Richard Barron, senior education officer, said teachers were paid from a special supported study budget.
Mr Barron hopes the new out-of-school care funds, announced as part of the childcare strategy, will help extend supported study practice to primaries.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Office has recently handed the Prince's Trust a grant of o40,000 to set up a network for supported study. It is shortly to produce a CD-Rom to explain best practice.
A trust spokeswoman said the lottery's New Opportunities Fund was likely to take supported study beyond homework clubs into wider activities. "It is likely to be about developing skills," she said.
The trust will promote a series of seminars across Scotland in the autumn to explain the new fund and how schools and authorities can use it imaginatively. Applications for funds have to be submitted by January for release next summer and beyond.
The Quality in Education Centre at Strathclyde University is continuing with a three-year evaluation of supported study.