Earlier start to primary for Glasgow

11th March 2005 at 00:00
Primary 1 pupils in Glasgow will start full-time education earlier from next session.

Of 6,827 responses from parents and staff to a consultation carried out by the city's education department, the greatest support was for moving the full-time start from after the October holiday week to a month earlier - after the September weekend.

Teacher organisations favoured the status quo of moving from morning-only to full-time education after the October holiday. They argued that the demands of the primary curriculum were very different to the more informal approach to children's education through the pre-five curriculum.

The Educational Institute of Scotland suggests the council's move has been driven by childcare, not educational, concerns.

Susan Quinn, a former chairperson of Glasgow EIS and a primary teacher, told The TES Scotland: "I appreciate the difficulties working parents have but if the council is saying that schools and nurseries are childcare facilities first and foremost, then that is an inappropriate response."

Pre-five organisations represented by Unison felt a full start should be made after a one-week induction period, although it was recognised that this was dependent on good liaison with primaries and more interactive learning in the P1 classroom.

In a report to the city's education committee this week, Christine Higgison, head of primary schools, said: "As pre-five education continues to increase and the liaison between pre-five and primary becomes more structured, it will be important to continue to monitor the requirements for an induction period to P1."

The consultation was carried out after a number of inquiries from parents questioning the necessity for a phased induction, particularly those with jobs whose children had been in full-time nursery provision.

Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, said: "Our members do not support moving the phased induction period. We do not know of any educational ground for making the change. It seems to be more driven by the desire to have effectively a childminding service."

However, Mr Dempster welcomed the fact that the council was not moving the full-time start to the beginning of the session.

Liz Cullen, co-ordinator in early child education at Glasgow University, told The TES Scotland that the focus should be on what is best for the child rather than what suited parents, whether they worked or otherwise.

"When you consider that our children go to school younger than any other children in Europe and that they have two years of pre-school, perhaps we are becoming too concentrated on time as distinct from quality."

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