Could pupils be facing a longer school day? The key arguments explored

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
The government has suggested it is considering a longer school day. (PA)
The government has suggested it is considering a longer school day. (PA)

The government has suggested the school day could be made longer in England in order to make up for “lost education” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Education minister Nick Gibb has confirmed the government is “considering all options… including time spent in schools”.

However, a new study has suggested a longer day would be unnecessary and schools ought to focus on the quality of provision in the current time parameters.

Schools, of course, have faced serious disruption during the pandemic, particularly with enforced closures during the first and third lockdowns.

Now pupils have returned, here is why a longer school day is being debated.

Why is the government considering a longer school day?

Responding to a House of Commons written question on Thursday, Gibb said the lost time in schools has “had a substantial impact on the education of children and young people”.

He went on: “The [Department for Education] is considering all options to address lost education, including time spent in schools, to ensure the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is addressed as comprehensively as possible for all pupils.”

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Gibb added the government is “mindful” of increased teacher workloads, “whilst also examining the benefits of change”.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson previously said in March that he is “looking at” a longer school day.

What could a longer school day look like and how long could this policy last?

The current school day is typically about six-and-a-half hours long.

Tes, the education trade paper, reported last week ministers are considering a compulsory half-hour extension.

It also said a voluntary 8am to 6pm day could be offered to schools, though this would include extra-curricular activities.

Gibb, meanwhile, suggested any change to the school day, in order for pupils to “make up their education”, would span “over the course of this Parliament”.

This could mean until 2024, the latest year the next general election can be called.

What have experts and teachers said about a longer school day?

It’s not been positive.

Research by Cambridge University, published on Friday, suggested that if the extra learning time is more of the same provision, extending the school day may only give marginal gains.

The research indicated that rather than adding extra classroom time, “schools may find it more productive to consider carefully the range and quality of activities provided”.

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It said the extra workload, for both pupils and teachers, could prevent them performing at their best.

Vaughan Connolly, a doctoral researcher at Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, said: “Simply keeping all students in school for longer, in order to do more maths or more English, probably won’t improve results much. Nor is it likely to narrow the attainment gap for those who have missed out the most.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) union, said: “The marginal gains that might be possible through extending the school day must be weighed against the costs of such a strategy: including the impact on pupils’ mental health, reduced family time and less time for extracurricular activities.”

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