Should The School Day Be Longer?

The education secretary is considering lengthening the school day, but not everybody is so sure

children school day

by Maria Lally |

A blessing for working parents, keen for more wraparound childcare? A chance for pupils to bounce back from the horrors of home-schooling? Or will a longer school day tire out our already weary schoolchildren?

This week, the new education secretary said he was ‘going to look at’ making the school day longer in a bid to make up for learning lost as a result of repeated school closures and homeschooling during lockdown. Speaking in the Commons, Nadhim Zahawi said there are some ‘excellent examples’ of schools implementing longer hours.

Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP and chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, who is calling on Zahawi to lengthen the school day, said: ‘We know from the Education Policy Institute that it increases educational attainment from two to three months, especially amongst disadvantaged pupils. We know that a longer school day, according to the department for culture, media, sports, increases numeracy by 29%. So, this increases educational attainment.’

However, not everybody is so sure. In June, then education secretary Gavin Williamson said there was ‘a debate to be had’ over making the school day longer to allow for a longer lunch break and extra learning time. But responding at the time, shadow education secretary Kate Green argued that ‘children won’t learn well if they are tired and if it has been a long day’.

While Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘The 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 extra-curricular activities. Children's happiness and wellbeing should be prioritised as well as their education.’

An earlier study of UK parents found that over half (56%) were against a longer school day, with parents of secondary school children against it more than the younger age groups. However, this summer a YouGov poll commissioned by the Centre for Social Justice found most parents would back a plan for extending the school by five hours a week if extra time was made for activities like sport, drama, art and music.

So, what do you think? Would you – or your children – be keen on a longer school day?

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