CUTS to the school day and new charges for transport are being proposed by a council in a bid to slash its education budget.

Highland Council is considering the moves as part of measures to save almost £30 mil-lion over the next two years.

It says it needs to make the savings because of the squeeze on public-sector spending, but parents fear the quality of education will suffer.

Loading article content

The moves are the latest in a strong of controversial proposals by councils to save money.

Under the new Highland pro-posals, the primary school week for older pupils would be cut from 25 hours to 22.5, saving more than £3m. Younger pupils are already in school for that duration.

The consultation document also suggests parents of pupils living more than three miles from their school should pay for transport, which is currently free.

And there has also been the suggestion that all-through schools could be established, combining nurseries, primary schools and secondary schools.

Dave Fallows, chairman of the council's finance committee and an SNP councillor, said: "Some of these proposals will be con-sidered when the council meets in December and the final proposals at a meeting of the council in February next year.

"We will be consulting parents about these proposals and no decisions have been taken.

"We are hoping we will get a good response and listen very carefully to the views of families across the region."

Jason Hasson, chairman of the parent council for Tarradale Primary School, on the Black Isle, said education was bound to suffer.

He added: "It will cause real problems for working parents. I don't think people should have to pay for school transport either."

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union warned schools across Scotland will be facing similar cuts.

He said: "Budgets for school education have been squeezed right across Scotland over the past few years, with major cuts to classroom learning resources and major reductions in both teacher and support staff numbers.

"Education is an investment for the future of our young people and our society at large, so the Scottish Government and local authorities must reject the cost-cutting approach and focus on ways to provide better, enhanced support for our education system."

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, added: "This is an interesting approach from Highland and one which, although it will worry parents, at least sets out the options being considered and gives what we hope is a genuine opportunity for debate.

"What we are seeing in other areas tends to be less up front – posts not being filled, jobs being merged, support being reduced by stealth, and so on."