There has been huge local publicity recently about the proposal by Cottesbrooke Junior School to close at 1pm on Fridays. The school says this would enable better use of teacher PPA time – which stands for planning, preparation and assessment. I attended a packed meeting at the school last Wednesday, which discussed the plans. Its fair to say that the large number of parents who attended were overwhelmingly hostile to the proposal. I share their concerns.
Teachers have to be given 10% PPA time, but when this is done and how it is organised is largely up to each school’s governing body. Up till now Cottesbrooke Junior (like virtually every other school in Birmingham) has employed supply teachers to free up teachers for their PPA time, while enabling lessons to carry on. The proposal discussed last Wednesday would mean the school would shut at 1pm on Fridays, with other timings remaining unchanged. We were told this would result in a reduction of teaching hours from 25 hours per week to 23 hours 50 minutes per week (the statutory minimum is 23 hours 30 minutes per week). The Friday afternoon would then be free for PPA time, with all teachers able to work together.
The changes would also lead to a big saving in supply teaching costs (Cottesbrooke Junior School paid £67k for PPA cover by supply teachers last year). Provision would be made to enable children with both parents in work or full time education to remain in school, in after school clubs, until the normal end of the school day.
Some parents were concerned about the inconvenience this would cause – and it was made clear that Cottesbrooke Infant School has no plans to make the same change, so some parents with children at both schools will have two different journeys to make on Fridays, if the plans come to fruition. However parents were also very clear that their main concern is the reduction in teaching time their children would receive; which is over an hour a week. The school basically argues that there will be no negative impact as the reduction is in supply taught hours, not hours taught by the class teacher and the class teacher will benefit from better organised PPA. However the school did say that the current supply teachers are good, so by logic this means each child will lose what amounts to well over a week’s worth of good teaching a year. This seems highly likely to have a negative impact on their education.
The School’s presentation also argued that Ninestiles, an OFSTED assessed excellent secondary school in Acocks Green closes early on Fridays. However they neglected to point out that Ninestiles pupils only leave early every other Friday afternoon and make up the time by starting earlier each day. When this was pointed out by a Director of Ninestiles, who was in the audience, they had to agree this was true.
The Head was keen to stress this was a consultation exercise and nothing has been decided. I worry that the way this ‘consultation’ has been conducted so far, seems very much on the basis that the School is trying to sell the idea to the parents, rather than even handedly giving the options. It that was the aim, its clear that its backfired rather dramatically.
A final decision will be taken by the School’s Governing Body on 8th December. I’d strongly recommend that any parent who hasn’t responded so far, writes to the Chair of Governors at the School, expressing their views on the proposals.
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