Short changed by convenience;Opinion

12th June 1998 at 01:00
Why should Edinburgh nursery schools close at lunch time on Fridays? Why should children at special schools have a shorter day than their counterparts in mainstream education? These questions are raised this week (page 8 and opposite) but they could have been asked at anytime. Edinburgh schools' asymmetrical week (as it is called) has become accepted, though it dates only from Lothian days. Without the geometry it means that children are sent home for Friday afternoons.

There is no reason beyond relatively recent custom. Paul Dumbleton, whose daughter is among special needs children shortchanged, knows the specious answers to his question about losing 1,500 hours' teaching time but is rightly unconvinced.

Teacher convenience is at the root of practices that parents are beginning to question. If nursery schools exist not just to begin the long process of education but to benefit working parents, a purpose blessed by government, they have to accept that Friday afternoons are not a winding down for the weekend. Likewise, special schools have to accept that education takes more time, not less, than in mainstream establishments. Relatively generous staffing helps to compensate for the attendant difficulties.

No one is now fooled by the idea that schools which close early one day a week work more productively on the other days. Teachers have to cram too much into every day. Time with children is more important than notional time spent on professional activities. Ask any parent.

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