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Legislation to bring certainty for pupils, parents and teachers.
Primary school pupils across Scotland will be guaranteed at least 950 hours a year (equivalent to 25 hours a week) of teaching time the Scottish Government has announced.
Local authorities are currently required to open schools for 190 days each year, with the length and structure of the school day not specified in legislation. The Curriculum for Excellence operates on an assumption of 25 hours of teacher contact each week in primary schools.
Ministers have decided to amend the Education Bill currently before Parliament to allow them to regulate for every primary school pupil to benefit from a minimum of 25 hours with teachers per week.
This follows teachers' and parents' concerns about the possibility of children in some areas receiving less teacher contact time due to local proposals for a shorter school week as part of cost-saving proposals.
This power would also allow Ministers to put in place a minimum number of hours in secondary schools.
Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning Angela Constance said:
"The Scottish Government is working with local authorities, parents and others to ensure our education system delivers both excellence and equity for every child. We are driving a relentless effort to boost educational achievement and, critically, to make quicker progress in closing the 'attainment gap', for example through the £100 million Scotland Attainment Challenge.
"Scotland's teachers are absolutely critical to these efforts. That's why we have committed investment of up to £51 million this year specifically to help local authorities to maintain teacher numbers. And it's why we will legislate to provide certainty for pupils, parents and teachers about the length of the school week – a teacher time guarantee that every one of our children and young people should expect, and which they deserve. Decisions on the amount of time with teachers, in class and at school should always be made based on the potential educational benefit for children, rather than on how much money can be saved."
The Cabinet Secretary also announced her intention to ensure a minimum school clothing grant for children and young people who need it. Scottish Government amendments to the Education Bill before Parliament would allow Ministers to make regulations to ensure consistency in clothing grant provision across Scotland.
Ms Constance said:
"We are committed to working with partners to eradicate all barriers to education for all our young people. A very real cost to parents struggling to make ends meet is school uniforms. While local authorities currently have a general duty to make provision, it is clear from our discussions with a number of organisations that there is inconsistency across Scotland.
"We believe that by discussion with partners we can reach a more equitable position – one that guarantees a minimum school clothing grant for the children and young people who need it most. We intend to introduce a regulation-making power which would mean Ministers can set specific criteria for this provision."
Ministers intend to introduce the teacher contact time guarantee by lodging an amendment, on Wednesday, to the Education Bill, currently being considered by Parliament. It will be considered by the Education & Culture Committee next week.