Schools ordered to open for at least 32.5 hours a week so children don't 'miss out'

27 March 2022, 20:27 | Updated: 28 March 2022, 00:41

Schools are being made to open for 32.5 hours a week
Schools are being made to open for 32.5 hours a week. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Schools will be asked to ensure their week is at least 32.5 hours long by September 2023, it has been revealed.

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The Schools White Paper, published in full on Monday, will detail how school weeks should run for at least 32-and-a-half hours - from 8.45am to 3.15pm Monday to Friday, for example.

Most school weeks across primary and secondary schools in England already cover this length of time.

However, the Department for Education (DfE) said there are some "discrepancies" which could see a children who receives 20 minutes' less teaching time a day lose out on around two weeks of schooling per year.

As one of several measures set out in the White Paper, the DfE said the change aimed to build on the Government's Levelling Up mission for schools.

The target is for 90 per cent of pupils leaving primary school to have reached expected standards in numeracy and literacy.

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The long-awaited Special Educational Needs and Disability (Send) Review is also set to be published on Tuesday.

The DfE said: "The Send and alternative provision green paper will build on education support and change the culture and practice in mainstream schools to be more inclusive, helping the workforce to adapt to every pupil's needs."

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Speaking about the new measures, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: "Every child deserves support from excellent teachers, who in turn deserve to be backed by a supportive and inclusive school, whether they live in Doncaster or Dartmouth, whether they plan to study T-levels or A-levels, whatever their background.

"Over my time as Education Secretary, my guiding focus has been creating opportunity for all, with strong schools and great teachers for every child. Every plan and policy I will set out in next week's Schools White Paper works towards this goal.

"The Schools White Paper, closely followed by the Send Green Paper, will demonstrate levelling up in action, delivering fairness for every child and making sure nobody is left behind."

However, Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said that the proposals amounted to telling most schools to "carry on as normal".

She said that after two years of "pandemic chaos" the plan would leave parents, teachers and pupils "wondering where the ambition for children's futures is".

"For almost eight in 10 schools, the Education Secretary's big idea is to carry on as normal," she said.

"Hundreds of thousands of primary children live in an area with no 'good' schools, the gap in learning between the most and least well-off pupils has widened during Covid, four in 10 young people leave education without the skills they need and young people are experiencing a mental health crisis.

"Yet the Government has no answers."

Headteachers have also said they are "unconvinced" of the benefits of a minimum expectation for the length of the school week.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We are unconvinced by the benefits of introducing a minimum expectation on the length of the school week of 32.5 hours."

He said that the vast majority of schools already met this expectation or came "very close" to meeting it, and that it was important to understand the factors that might lead to a shorter week in some schools.

"For example, it may be the case in some rural schools that start and finish times are affected by transport arrangements," he said.

"Adding time on to the school week may sound straightforward, but there are many issues which need to be considered in individual schools, and we would encourage the Government not to rush any changes."

"We look forward to seeing the full details of the schools white paper and the SEND and alternative provision green paper," he added.