On a visit to the London Academy of Excellence today, the secretary of state for education Michael Gove said he would like to see state schools, just like independent schools, offer a school day of nine or ten hours long.
‘We gave all academies and free schools the freedom to change and lengthen the school day and term, and we’re extending that freedom to every single state school,' he said.
‘Longer opening hours would allow time for structured homework sessions and prep, which will be particularly helpful for those children who come from homes where it’s difficult to secure the peace and quiet necessary for hard study.’
However, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has argued that extending the school day for up to ten hours would be 'counterproductive', especially for primary schools pupils as they would find it very difficult to concentrate or even stay awake for this long.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT said, ‘We must not lose sight that children deserve a childhood and time for relaxation. School must not become some sort of production line filled with weary youngsters.
‘Michael Gove’s solution to everything appears to be more testing, and of course punishment rather than praise. ‘
Another teaching union, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), has raised concern about where the money will come from to fund the extra staff if schools decide to stay open for longer.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT, said, ‘We need to be clear on where the money will come from to fund the extra staffing required, given that teachers are already working a 48-hour week on average under the current arrangements. If the finance is there, then schools can make the appropriate arrangements, using a wide range of staff, contracts and partnership with other providers.'
He added, 'We should definitely consider staggering school holidays around the country to reduce the costs, but this would require a degree of local co-ordination which is currently lacking in our fragmented system.’
Mr Gove first raised the idea of extending the school day last April. The education secretary claimed that increasing the number of hours that schools are open and reducing the length of school holidays would help children achieve better outcomes.