Calls have been made for shorter days at Sanquhar Academy to “improve work-life balance” for both teachers and pupils.

Plans are under way to restructure the high school timetable across Dumfries and Galloway next year, with the same teaching timetable being applied across all 16 secondaries, rather than schools operating their own system.

The ‘curriculum transformation’ plans will also take into account the Scottish Government’s aim to reduce teacher contact time from 22.5 hours per week to 21 hours.

Dumfries and Galloway Council’s education chiefs ran a consultation between April and June this year, which asked teachers, parents, and pupils for their views on changes to the current timetable model.

One of the questions in the online survey asked: “To create an efficient timetable, many local authorities have moved to models where not all five days in school are the same format/length. What advantages, if any, do you think that could bring?”

There were a total of 2,876 responses to the consultation overall. For this particular question above, there were 325 answers.

The most common responses to advantages in timetable changes included “greater flexibility in organizing school activities, meetings, and appointments”, along with a “more efficient timetable allocation, maximizing teaching time and allowing for tailored scheduling.”

Responses also included: “Improved work-life balance: shorter days leading to improved work-life balance for both staff and students.

“Longer weekends for staff and students, potentially reducing absenteeism and boosting morale.”

This timetable review comes at a time when overstretched staff are pleading for more learning assistant support, due to one in three pupils now requiring additional support needs.

When asked about disadvantages to changing the format and length of school timetable lessons, many respondents mentioned the importance of having a consistent daily routine for students, especially those who thrive on structure.

“Varying start and finish times could lead to confusion and make it challenging for students to adjust,” said the council report.

Several respondents also highlighted potential difficulties for parents and staff in arranging childcare when school days have different lengths. This could impact attendance and participation in extracurricular activities.

A report on the matter will be discussed at the council’s education committee next Thursday.

The document explains for councillors: “Currently, our secondary schools run their own timetable models. Some of these are efficient and others are not, meaning that there are instances where secondary staff are not able to be allocated their full 22.5 hours contact time.

“This means for learners who wish to network with other schools or join online virtual lessons there are almost always instances where a learner will have to miss part, or all, of an in-school class due to scheduling conflicts.”

The report also stated: “The move to one timetable model will seek to address differences in the options available in schools as well as present a recommended efficient timetable structure for use from August 2024.”

Councillors will be asked to agree in principle that all secondary schools moved to a uniform timetable structure from August 2024. A report will then come back to the November education committee with recommendations on how this should look.