Implementing a longer school day has been much debated.

There has been a variety of research you might find interesting to refresh your memory on the topic, including: 

As a former teacher, the issue of staffing and the impact on teacher wellbeing seems to be the aspect which is often overlooked with the majority of analysis focussing on the impact of pupil attainment and outcomes.

Getting teachers onside is key, with contracts, working hours and new legislation which would have to be implemented. Not a simple task! 

Especially with more remote and flexible alternative working opportunities in other sectors and a retention crisis ongoing within education.

With teacher workload and wellbeing already causing a substantial strain, there would be considerable pushback in the profession with any moves to extend directed hours.

Longer school days: what does the evidence say?

The Chartered College of Teaching explains the evidence around lengthening the school day is mixed and mostly correlational rather than causal. 

What appears to matter most is how this time is used rather than the quality of time.

With a possible extension of the school day as part of the Covid recovery strategy having been reviewed by the DfE, where are we now at?

What did the DfE review find?

The DfE published its findings on helping pupils to catch up from the effects of Covid. It considered the following aspects:

  • The scale and nature of lost learning
  • The current use of time
  • International comparisons
  • Impact and deliverability

How to deliver it?

The DfE’s review concludes that it will need to involve “significant delivery considerations.” It explains:

Any universal change to the length of the school day would involve significant delivery considerations, particularly how to realise the additional teaching capacity required in order to facilitate delivery within existing legislative, contractual and workforce supply constraints

The challenge of ensuring that any additional time is not only delivered, but also used well, would require legislation and accountability measures sufficient to ensure quality. 

So it looks like plans to extend working hours might be paused in the immediate future at least. 

The review does note delivering an increase in hours at 16-19 is much more feasible, particularly as the legislative and accountability frameworks to do so are already in place

What is the current situation with the length of the school day?

Essentially, schools currently have autonomy over the length of their day and the DfE currently doesn’t track how the length of the school day differs from setting to setting. 

In England, local authority maintained schools must open for at least 380 sessions (190 days) during an academic year. The head teacher of a maintained school will recommend the length of a school day, including session times and breaks. 

The governing body must agree to the recommendation. Academies, including free schools, set their own term dates and school day.

The head teacher of a maintained school will recommend the length of a school day, including session times and breaks. The governing body must agree to the recommendation. As with term dates, academies set their own school day. 

Longer days: how does it impact staff?

The World Economic Forum explains that of course this means more teaching hours.

That raises the question of whether asking teachers to extend their working day is a reasonable request.

It explains that while there may be benefits to pupils in extending the school day, one must be wary of the costs this would incur to teachers’ mental health and wellbeing. 

Pupils would not benefit from being taught by teachers who are stressed and burned out. For any educational recovery plan to be effective, it is important to consider teachers’ needs and perspectives.

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