Pupils to endure longer school days and a minimum 35-hour week to catch up after Covid


School days could be extended by half an hour – to create a minimum 35-hour week – to help pupils catch-up under an ambitious £15billion Covid bounce back plan, it was reported last night.

The government’s education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, has called for all children to receive an extra 100 hours of education per year from 2022, according to a leaked presentation.

It comes after students across Britain were hit by huge disruptions to their education across much of last year and also this year due to Covid. 

Schools are likely to be allowed to choose how they accommodate the extra hours, which works out at around 30 minutes extra per day.

The ambitious plan for England also proposes extra tutoring for five million pupils and additional training for 500,000 teachers.

An extra year of sixth-form could also be on the cards if teenagers cannot complete A-level courses in time.

The proposals centre around the principle of boosting the ‘three Ts’ – time, teaching and tutoring.

Using all ‘three Ts’ will be key to helping students recover from the disruption to their learning, the presentation is said to conclude. 

The 56-page presentation based on Sir Kevan’s report from mid-April, seen by The Times, is described as a draft that is 90 percent complete.

School days could be extended by half an hour – to create a minimum 35-hour week – in a bid to help pupils catch-up under a £15billion Covid bounce back plan, it was reported last night

Parents are already contacting lawyers getting ready to sue ahead of this year’s expected A-level grades row 

Parents of pupils awaiting teacher-assessed A-level results have already begun contacting lawyers ahead of an expected row.

With exams cancelled due to coronavirus, teachers are assessing grades, which has left some parents worrying about bias or whether special educational needs or disabilities will be properly accommodated for, the Observer reported.

The unease follows the scrapping of an algorithm-based determination which caused chaos last year and has left teachers, unions, parents and students anticipating more issues this summer.

The results are due on August 10, but lawyers like education specialist Amara Ahmad at Doyle Clayton are already receiving inquiries about challenging them.

‘People want to start preparing for appeals now,’ she told the Observer.

‘Some are in the dark about the grades their child has achieved throughout the academic year or what evidence the teacher-assessed grades will be based on.’

Many within teaching are frustrated at the time it took ministers to develop ways to ensure fair comparison of pupils between schools – something they had been calling for for months.

‘My concern is that teachers will just be left in the lurch by a secretary of state who has created this situation and then walks away saying ‘teachers clearly can’t assess pupils,’ Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, told the Observer.

While the plan would cost £15bn over three years – the equivalent of around £700 per pupil – the Treasury is thought to be offering only a tenth of this.

But the report warns that the cost to the economy long-term of doing nothing to help pupils catch up on lost learning could be £1.5 trillion.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reported to have been briefed on the findings, and, according to the Times, is believed to have expressed support. 

The Department of Education, headed-up by Education Minister Gavin Williamson, is also said to be supportive. 

It comes as academics warned last week that extending the school day ‘won’t improve results much’ and is unlikely to narrow the gap for those who have missed out the most amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Cambridge University researchers found that substantial increases in classroom teaching time would likely only lead to ‘small improvements’ among pupils and would do ‘relatively little’ to improve academic outcomes.

Researchers said that teachers should instead re-evaluate ‘how time is used in schools’ and ‘may find it more productive to consider carefully the range and quality of activities provided’.

The study comes months after teaching unions demanded ministers reject proposals to extend the school day, claiming there are ‘better methods’ to help pupils catch up on lost time in the classroom.

The analysis, used five years of Government data, collected from more than 2,800 schools in England, to estimate the likely impact of additional classroom instruction on academic progress, as measured at GCSE.

For example, extending Year 11 pupils’ classroom time by one hour per class, in English or maths, was associated with an increase of 0.12 and 0.18 in a school’s ‘value-added’ score – a standard progress measure.

This increase appears small, considering that most of the schools in the study had scores ranging between 994 and 1006.

The research, which is published in the journal London Review of Education, also investigated the likely effect on disadvantaged pupils, whose education has been hardest hit by school closures. 

The government’s education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, has called for all children to receive an extra 100 hours of education per year from 2022, according to a leaked presentation

The Department of Education, headed-up by Education Minister Gavin Williamson, is said to be supportive of the wider proposals

The government’s education recovery commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, has called for all children to receive an extra 100 hours of education per year from 2022, according to a leaked presentation. The Department of Education, headed-up by Education Minister Gavin Williamson, is said to be supportive of the wider proposals

In keeping with the overall results, it again found that more of the same teaching was likely to do relatively little to improve academic outcomes.

Vaughan Connolly, a doctoral researcher at Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, said: ‘Simply keeping all students in school for longer, in order to do more maths or more English, probably won’t improve results much; nor is it likely to narrow the attainment gap for those who have missed out the most.

‘This evidence suggests that re-evaluating how time is used in schools – for example, by trimming subject time and replacing it with sessions focusing on ‘learning to learn’ skills – could make a bigger difference.

‘Quality is going to matter much more than quantity in the long run.

Mr Connolly added: ‘Rather than extending the school day to offer more instruction, a successful recovery agenda may well be one that tailors support and makes room for a wider range of learning within it, in line with the recent suggestions made by the Education Policy Institute.

‘In that sense, less instructional time could actually be more.

‘Certainly, these results suggest that giving children more of the same is unlikely to help if we want to recover what has been lost during the pandemic.’

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: ‘The marginal 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.’

In February, the NAHT school leaders’ union urged ministers to dismiss the ‘superficially attractive’ policy of an extended school day.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: ‘Research evidence shows that there are better methods to help pupils than lengthening the school day.

‘The Government must filter out loud calls for superficially attractive schemes and listen to the experts instead.’

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