One of the many changes set to hit the education sector over the rest of this Parliament, George Osborne stated in the Budget that school days would be extended beyond the traditional 3.30pm, with funding available for ‘additional activities’ in 25% of schools.
Despite worries about workload, many independent schools already operate a longer school day, to benefit their varied curriculum and give students a taste of working life.
Paul Norton, Principal at Kings Monkton school in Cardiff, says: “As a school that already operates, to some degree, under our own terms, we’ve already reaped the benefits of offering our students after-hours activity and support – especially around the exam season. Giving more schools access to this kind of support will certainly be advantageous to learners, but there are grey areas as to what exactly these ‘additional activities’ would be and whether the funds would be available to support activities schools already have in place.
“With the funded activities potentially helping only 25% of schools, will some state pupils have the advantage over others? As ever the devil will be in the detail as to how the plans play out in the coming months.”
The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) is also concerned about funding. General Secretary, Russell Hobby, says: ‘Any expansion of hours must be properly funded, as school budgets are extremely tight. As long as this remains at the discretion of schools to meet the needs of their pupils, then it seems positive.
‘The idea that most schools shut at 3.30 in the afternoon is itself pretty outdated, but we have no problem with extra money to help them in the activities they offer.”
The changes are also likely to have an effect on recruitment and the use of supply teachers. Andrew Preston, Group Managing Director of de Poel, says: ‘On the back of today’s announcement that Government will help a minimum of 25% of schools to extend their opening hours, it raises the question as to how this proposal is viable.
“When you take into account the already inflated agency labour bill, national teacher shortage, pupil numbers surging and budgets being stretched, schools are now faced with the challenge of making this plan become a reality.
“We are already talking to schools about how they can procure the services of recruitment agencies to deliver the best supply teachers at the best possible value, ensuring they fulfil their safeguarding obligations and keep services running smoothly. With these changes now on the horizon, we believe those conversations are set to increase even further.”
What do you think? Do you already operate a longer day? Send your comments to the editor.