The true cost of a 25-hour teaching week? £5m a year

12th February 2016 at 00:00
Council and opposition leaders denounce lack of consultation as implications of guarantee are revealed

The decision to guarantee every primary pupil 25 hours per week in school will cost taxpayers nearly £5 million a year, with a further £1 million needed for additional places in teacher training, TESS can reveal.

Official figures also reveal the £2.5 million cost of introducing the planned national tests in primary and early secondary – which is double the amount that a recent TESS survey showed that councils currently spend on assessment (see box, below).

The Scottish government guaranteed 950 hours of teacher contact time per year after it emerged that several local authorities were considering cutting the school week in order to save money. Most Scottish councils already have a 25-hour week, but six deliver reduced hours in the early years of primary. Education secretary Angela Constance recently told the Scottish Parliament that the move was about “safeguarding our children’s education” and preventing a “postcode lottery”.

A new government document reveals that an additional 120 teachers will be needed to increase the hours that children affected spend in school, at a cost of £4.8 million. More than £1 million will also be needed to increase initial teacher training places.

Debating the principle

The new duty has provoked a furious reaction from politicians over the lack of consultation. Ministers have said that they will consult “fully and widely” on the implementation.

However, Stephanie Primrose, education spokeswoman for the local authorities’ umbrella body Cosla, said: “The Scottish government’s actions have denied us any opportunity to debate the principle behind legislating for the length of the school week.”

Ms Constance had shown “utter contempt” for Parliament by introducing the duty at “the 11th hour”, added Liam McArthur, the Liberal Democrats’ education spokesman.

The extra costs would come at a difficult time, he said: “The government is proposing to cut council budgets by £500 million, which will impact on local education spending.

“To offer a consultation after writing a policy into legislation with no warning and no evidence is pretty insulting.”

Angela Constance said the new duty would not be introduced until August 2018 to give councils “advance warning”. She added: “No parent should have to fight to protect the number of hours of education that their child receives. To sacrifice our children’s education in the name of savings is quite simply to pay too great a price.”

There will be some circumstances under which a reduced number of hours can be provided. These include when an individual pupil’s wellbeing would be adversely affected or where it would be impractical, such as in the event of bad weather conditions.


Councils will pay the price for national testing

Government plans to test pupils’ literacy and numeracy is likely to cost £2.5 million per year, a new parliamentary memo says, with the total cost of the National Improvement Framework (NIF) estimated at £3.5 million per annum.

The cost of the assessments in both primary and secondary is double the sum councils currently pay.

The figure of £2.5 million assumes that the tests will be sat by approximately 230,000 P1, P4, P7 and S3 pupils at a cost of £11 per pupil. However, Scottish ministers were hopeful that the large scale of the testing would lead to savings.

Other costs associated with the NIF include the IT system the government plans to introduce to enable schools to work with the new data, at £100,000 per year. Teachers will also have to be trained in data literacy and a new team will be introduced to moderate teachers judgements at a cost of between £500,000 and £1 million.

Assessment guru Gordon Stobart, emeritus professor at the UCL Institute of Education in London, warned in TESS last year that national testing would be expensive (“Talk of not having league tables is wishful thinking”, Insight, 20 November).

“Money will be diverted to pay for these tests. Tests are very expensive – where does that money come from? It’s taken from other parts of the education budget,” he said.

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