Should the school day be extended to 10 hours?

9 January 2010

I asked my pupils this and EVERYONE of them said that it shouldn’t! Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? However, there are plans afoot for some schools to imitate certain American schools, Charter Schools, and run a school day from 7.50am-5pm. The idea is that the children from the poorest neighbourhoods don’t have good enough parents and therefore need the school to become a sort of surrogate parent. The Sutton Trust has recently published some research showing what a great thing Charter Schools are. Their research argues that children from working class families need schools to intervene much more than they do, providing much more extra-curricular help with homework, with hobbies and so on. I appeared on Woman’s Hour this Friday arguing that extending school hours was not the answer to solving this difficult social problem. Firstly, I pointed out that the most in-depth research carried out by Desforges shows that social class is NOT the deciding factor in how good parenting is, it is parental behaviour; we need to think about educating parents as much as children. Secondly, extending the school day is no guarantee that the quality of teaching will be improved. Again research shows that it is not the hours in school that count towards achievement but how good the teaching is in school. Thirdly, much of the research is based on false data: the Charter Schools select their children and exclude the very children — the disenfranchised, the alienated — that they are purporting to help. Fourthly, valuable resources will be sucked out of local schools to fund extended schools like this, as we have seen with Academies receiving more favourable funding than local schools. I was up against a researcher from the Sutton Trust who admitted that systematic research hadn’t been completed in the area.

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