Specialists target older pupils
Bruce Robertson, Highland Council's director of education, came under attack after it emerged that a number of schools in the authority have decided not to use specialist teachers in PE, music and art for P1-P3 pupils, once cuts in class contact time to 22.5 hours a week come into effect next session.
Some parents felt the move would discriminate against younger children.
But Mr Robertson hit back, saying that only half of Highland schools had decided to restructure the use of visiting teachers in this way. "This is just ensuring that we are targeting the additional resources of specialist teachers to those pupils who can benefit most," he said.
"We have also been extending the range of specialisms over the past two years in our primary schools to include 21st century specialisms such as science and technology and modern languages, not just PE and art."
Pupils would gain more from specialist teachers once they reached P4 or above, Mr Robertson said.
Many councils in Scotland do not have a visiting teacher service and there were many primary teachers who taught the full curriculum from P1-P7, Highland's director said.
"The teachers' agreement requires all primary school teachers from August to teach no more than 22.5 hours per week in front of the class," Mr Robertson said. "P1-P3 teachers already teach to that limit, and some headteachers of our larger schools have decided to direct their additional staffing resources towards the upper stages where it is felt that best use can be made of the expertise of visiting specialist teachers.
"The council has employed an additional 75 teachers over the past two years in primary schools, and from August will employ an additional 56 teachers."
But one practitioner condemned the council's "neglect and indifference" over the arts in schools, saying: "It makes an absolute mockery of the whole idea of the Year of Highland Culture in 2007 and the notion of a cultural legacy that the council has pledged to support."