Strike against new school week

8th December 2006 at 00:00
The teaching profession is not generally held in high regard. So, when there is talk about strike action over a change to working conditions, which will see secondary teachers working later for three days a week, you can imagine the snorts of derision from the general public.

However, the reasons behind the Educational Institute of Scotland's proposed strike action over the introduction of the 33-period week in Glasgow's schools are compelling, based on strong educational principles and a lack of consultation by the education authority.

The council claims it has instigated the changes to offer pupils more periods of English, maths and PE. While I'm not sure that offering more classes in a subject will improve attainment, I think the council was looking at the possible savings to its wage bill, rather than educational benefits.

By removing the 20 minutes above minimum time classroom teachers currently receive a week, the council will make a huge saving. Adding together these 20 minutes across the city will allow the council to lose 44 teaching posts and save the education budget a fortune.

However, the addition of three extra periods to the week will disrupt schools' day-to-day running. As every secondary teacher knows, the changeover between periods is the biggest time sink within the day, as it involves the movement of up to 1,000 people within a building from room to room.

Under the new 50 minutes allocated for the new periods, time for moving between classes and settling in could mean 10-20 per cent of teaching time being lost. Another weakness is that the extra periods will fall in the afternoon during the post-lunch "slump", when pupils don't seem to take in as much as they do in the morning. In fact, there is a strong argument for starting the day earlier and finishing at lunch time, with teachers'

preparation periods in the afternoon.

I'm not sure that the new school week will be popular with parents either.

With schools closing earlier on two days a week and later on the other three, organising childcare for working parents could become more awkward.

The danger now is that, if other education authorities see the money-saving changes being pushed through by Scotland's biggest education employers, they will undoubtedly want to follow suit.

Gordon Cairns

teaches in Glasgow

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