With a tweak here and an adjustment there

The controversial 33-period timetable introduced to East Renfrewshire schools two years ago is destined to stay, despite lingering objections in some quarters.

A review of the implementation of the secondary school week has found that the advantages in financial savings, extra time for PE and personal and social education, and less time at lunchtime for pupils to misbehave outweighed the disadvantages, such as an uneven working week and the loss of a separate registration period.

The new timetable was criticised by some teachers who felt it had been imposed on them at the time of introduction. Since then, a similar model has been introduced to Glasgow secondaries, despite teacher union objections, and some other authorities have adapted the 33-period template for their schools.

A report to yesterday's East Renfrewshire education committee found the change had been largely successful and that solutions to the remaining issues could be found. The timetable involves a move from 30 55-minute periods to 33 50-minute periods (split into three seven-period days on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and six-period days on Wednesday and Friday).

A spokesman for the council said the 33-period timetable had given S5-6 pupils a "better run" at Highers and Advanced Highers, evidenced by this year's pass rates, and teachers' fears that the timetable would leave them too little time to teach S3-4 courses had proved unfounded as the pass rate for Intermediate exams had also risen. He added that the structure also facilitated the authority's vocational programme for pupils in S5- 6.

Alan Munro, local association secretary for the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "There are improvements to be made and there is scepticism in some quarters."

However, teachers had no desire to go back to the 30-period week, he added. Instead, they wanted to improve the model they had. The council's education committee was told that many staff welcomed the early closures on Wednesdays and Fridays, particularly for CPD.

The review, led by former head Jim McVittie, reported some teachers saying that pupils were unable to concentrate during period 7 and that they had to adjust lessons and teaching approaches accordingly. However, it suggested that pupils' behaviour had always been more challenging at the end of the day, and that "period 7 was the new period 6".

Pupils reported an improvement in behaviour at lunchtime because of the shorter time available. Parents said children had fewer opportunities to eat unhealthily, because they had less time to go out of school.

Although there was not enough time for extra-curricular clubs at lunchtime, this was said to be balanced by the availability of after- school activities.

The report acknowledged shortcomings in the way the change was communicated in some of the authority's seven secondaries and recommended improvements in consultation procedures.

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