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Borders Council shortens schools's Fridays

A SCOTS council is going ahead with plans to move its schools to a four-and-a-half day week despite significant opposition from parents and pupils.

More than 5000 people took part in the consultation over proposals to change school times at 63 primaries and nine secondary schools in the Scottish Borders.

Concerns were expressed over the cost and availability of extra childcare while pupils, especially from rural areas, raised worries about longer days when already travelling long distances.

But at a meeting at their Newtown St Boswells headquarters yesterday, councillors voted 21-8 in favour of the uniform asymmetric week, with one abstention, and it will be introduced in August. All schools in the region will close on a Friday lunchtime.

The system, which already operates in Edinburgh and the Lothians, is aimed at saving money through staff costs. However, parents are unhappy at the changes and have criticised the consultation process, saying it was already a done deal.

Karen Brown, 40, from Peebles, said: "I work in Edinburgh and I can't just decide to take a Friday afternoon off so I will need to try and get childcare sorted out."

Scottish Borders Council's director of education, Glenn Rodger, admitted that the "vast majority" of the 5153 people who got involved with the consultation had issues and concerns about the change. But he said it was imperative the asymmetric week was introduced, which should produce annual savings of £500,000.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said other councils might view it as a more efficient way of structuring their timetable.

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