LOCAL authorities across the country are moving to help families who struggle with costs and stress when their children begin primary one.

In September, the Sunday National revealed the postcode lottery for families in Scotland in terms of the “half-day” policy put in place by some local authorities at the start of the school year, with primary one pupils initially attending for only half a day to ease four and five-year-olds into the change of going to school.

Taking time off work and arranging childcare costs some families hundreds of pounds, and parents have spoken of huge amounts of stress in trying to accommodate an average of 10 days of morning-only school attendance. Now, councils are taking action to reduce or eliminate phased starts in most areas.

Out of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, 14 still only have children in for half days at the start of primary one. Falkirk Council and Glasgow City Council will start all primary one pupils on whole days from the beginning of the school year in August 2019. Five other areas – Inverclyde, Angus, East Dunbartonshire, Fife and Perth and Kinross – are currently reviewing their half-day policies while holding consultations with head teachers and parents.

The depute chief executive of East Dunbartonshire Council, Ann Davie, said: “A survey has been conducted with parents and carers and we are now in the process of consulting with head teachers. The feedback will be compiled in a report to the education committee who will make a decision on whether or not to change the procedures for the 2019/20 intake.”

Shelagh McLean, head of education at Fife Council, said it is also carrying out a review. “Currently our P1s attend school for only half a day in the first couple of weeks”, she told the Sunday National.

“Historically, this has been done to help smooth the transition for young children from nursery to school and gives them time to get used to a more structured learning environment. Due to the increase in time children are already spending in nursery and the work that has been done to improve transitions over time, we are exploring the possibility of children starting a full day at school sooner, especially as we move towards a further increase in early learning and childcare hours for 2020.

“We are constantly reviewing our practices in all aspects of education to try to make sure that our children have the best start in life possible.”

And a spokesman for Inverclyde Council said: “We have been developing plans for the expansion of nursery and childcare in Inverclyde.

“As part of this we have been examining whether the half day works for pupils, parents and schools. Early engagement with schools has so far confirmed it may no longer be needed and we are likely to be formally reviewing this in early new year in advance if the start of the new term.”

Three councils have very short half-day periods of two or three days: Edinburgh, Moray and West Dunbartonshire. Only Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council and Dundee City Council, plan to keep their half-day periods of up to three weeks.

A spokesperson for Aberdeenshire Council said that there are no plans to change its policy for the induction of primary one pupils, which is currently up to two weeks of half days.

The spokesperson said: “It is currently up to each primary school in Aberdeenshire to design an induction period which should last no more than two weeks from the start of the August session. We stress that each primary one pupil should have access to full days from the start of the third week of the August term unless a different educational plan has been designed and agreed by parents and/or carers and the pupils concerned.”

Shetlands Islands Council has the longest half-day start periods in Scotland of up to eight weeks at some schools. However, this is highly individualised to schools and organised by head teachers on the basis of the location and pupil numbers at each school. A spokesperson said: “We don’t have a council-wide policy on primary one half days – it is delegated to individual school heads and we don’t have any plans to change that.”

The Sunday National also asked the Scottish Government and the membership organisation for councils, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), if they would push local authorities on free lunches for primary one pupils at the start of the autumn term.

Even if P1 children are sent home after a half day at the start of the school year, they are still entitled to a free meal. Several parents told the Sunday National that this option wasn’t offered to their child when they were attending school for half days at the start of term.

A spokesperson for Cosla said: “Local authorities are working to the national commitment to provide free school meals to all P1-P3 pupils. It is an operational issue for each authority on how this commitment is fulfilled and communicated to parents locally.”