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Caithness News Bulletins February 2006

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Highland Council  
24 February 06
Highland Convenor To Meet Youth Voice Representatives
The Convener of The Highland Council, Councillor Alison Magee, is to meet representatives of Highland Youth Voice next week to assure them that pupils wishing to take Advanced Higher courses will still be able to do so.

Councillor Magee will be joined by Councillor Andy Anderson, Chairman of the Council's Education Culture and Sport Committee and Director of Education Culture and Sport, Bruce Robertson, at the meeting to be held on Tuesday at Inverness.

She said: "I look forward to meeting with Highland Youth Voice to explain the background to this matter. The impression has been given that there are to be significant cuts in curriculum options across all Highland schools and I will take the opportunity to assure our students and their families that this is not the case."

The Council's analysis of the current situation, arising from a Scottish Executive directive to reduce the time a teacher has class contact to 22.5 hours, is that there will be the ability in the vast majority of the 29 secondary schools in Highland to absorb the 22.5 hours entitlement within current staffing entitlements.

Councillor Magee said: "I can tell young people that no pupil will be disadvantaged. Where schools identify gaps in Advanced Higher courses, we will work with them to examine a range of options to address matters."

Mr Robertson said the options would include the targeting of additional probationary teachers to specific schools and use of the very successful Scholar Programme. In Inverness, where there are five secondary schools, it would be possible to establish a consortium arrangement. Video conferencing could be used to allow schools to work together, particularly in rural areas.

He said: "Highland secondary schools have traditionally been able to offer a good selection of courses to senior pupils and I am sure that
this will be no different this coming session."

23 February 06
Highland Secondary Schools Staffing Levels To Hit Advanced Highers

This coming school session (2006-2007) will see teachers across Scotland spending one hour per week less directly in front of pupils, with 22.5 hours being the maximum class contact time, both in secondary and in primary schools. The impact of these changes is now being realised throughout Highland Secondary schools.

The Scottish Executive identified additional funding for the implementation of this national agreement, and in the case of Highland Council, the allocation is 769K.

Bruce Robertson, Highland Council's Director of Education, Culture and Sport said: "If we were to give every school in Highland an additional hour for each teacher, the total bill would be 2.7M, and in the case of secondary schools, 1.4M. It is clear therefore that we are not in a position to allocate additional funding to all schools for this purpose.

"Because primary schools have little flexibility in their staffing levels, they must be our first priority as regards the additional allocation to meet the 22.5 hour class contact week for teachers. This is where all our allocation will go."

The staffing level of secondary schools is determined by the roll of the school, the statutory requirements for staff/pupil ratios and the national agreement on the working week for teachers.

Mr Robertson added: "Secondary schools have greater flexibility in staffing and we have therefore indicated to secondary schools that they will have to absorb the impact of the 22.5 hour class contact week within their current staffing complement.

"The decision to reduce curriculum options such as Advanced Highers is entirely within the schools' decision making process and the Council has not taken a decision to cut Advanced Highers in schools. The reality, for most schools, is that these are courses which attract very small numbers of pupils and it is understandable that they are looking at hard choices in the senior school.

"We will be meeting our Secondary Head teachers in the next few days to discuss this matter and encouraging them to look very carefully at the school timetable and there overall staffing allocations, and where possible, if course options are to be reduced in the senior school, to use as alternatives the successful Scholar Programme and, in the case of Inverness schools, consider consortium arrangements."