All schools are now able to vary their school day to benefit their pupils.
Up until this September, if a local authority maintained school wanted to change its lunchtime, for example, by five minutes or extend its school hours, it had to go through a bureaucratic process which in some cases took up to three months. Foundation, foundation special, voluntary aided schools and academies were free from these restrictive regulations and so could already vary their school day.
Under the changes, which came into effect on 1 September 2011, the same freedoms are now extended to local authority maintained schools.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:
We want to give teachers and heads more power over how they run their schools. It shouldn’t be central government or detailed regulation that determines the time a school day starts or the length of the school lunch break. Academies have already benefited from this freedom and used it to help their pupils with catch up lessons or extra-curricular activities. We want all schools to benefit from this freedom if they choose to do so.
Supporting the changes Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said:
Longer school days can be one of the most powerful ways of bringing about school improvement. Carefully planned changes will be fine; heads are very aware of the needs of parents and their working lives.
Many academies have taken advantage of this freedom to vary their school day to provide extra-curricular activities or additional learning.
- ARK Academies across England have a longer school day both at primary and secondary level. At secondary level, this provides 31 hours of teaching per week, which allows for targeted catch up where needed as well as wider enrichment, extension and ‘masterclass’ activity - for example achieving the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) as an on-line course in the extended day flexible time.
- At the Milton Keynes Academy, students have a 30-hour week, with lessons from 8.30am - 3.20pm each day. This gives them five hours of extra learning per week and allows for all students to receive the equivalent of an hour of both literacy and numeracy every day.
- The West London Academy has extended the school day with an additional four hours teaching time per week.
- The Harefield Academy in Hillingdon, London, has used the freedom to structure the school day differently to accommodate its day boarders - young people who arrive very early and don’t go home sometimes until seven or eight at night. These are youngsters who have a particular talent in their sporting activity. During the day they have extra coaching and after school they catch up with their lessons; they do their homework, have their tea, and then they do more training.
- The JCB Academy in Staffordshire has hours that are more like business hours than normal schools and sixth form colleges. The curriculum encourages a structured and effective use of time, meaning that there should be very little - if any - homework in years 10 and 11 (sixth formers will have some homework, but probably less than other schools).
- Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation of Academies across London maximise learning and teaching time by extending the length of the school day.
Schools will still be expected to consult and to take account of the views of all interested parties before they implement any changes to the school day. They will be advised to consult and serve reasonable notice on their local authority, parents, pupils and staff, but free from national regulation being imposed on them.