All Work and No Play: UK Schools Trial Extending Operating Time by Five Hours

Bored and fed boy up doing his homework
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Schools in Labour-run Wales are to trial longer days in an attempt to combat the effects Covid restrictions have had on children.

Primary schools in Wales will partake in the trial, which could last as long as 10 weeks, in an attempt to help children who have fallen behind in their schooling during Covid lockdowns.

The Welsh government has also stated that it wants to look at shortening the summer holidays so as to “narrow educational inequalities and to support learner and staff well-being”, according to a report by the BBC.

As part of the trial, both primary and secondary schools involved will extend their operating times by five hours a week.

It will be up to partaking schools what exactly to do with the extra time.

Headteachers will also be allowed to outsource activities to other organisations, with the Welsh government providing £2 million in funding for the project.

One Welsh teaching union has described the move as a “pet project”, and that schools are at “breaking point” as is, without having their hours extended and breaks shortened.

One mother, who is also a secondary school teacher, criticised the proposal by saying that young primary school children would be exhausted after the long hours, and that the move could disrupt teachers in their work.

“From a staff wellbeing point of view, how you would manage your time effectively to be able to plan and prepare lessons and resources and material?” she asked. “Teachers are already exhausted.”

Laura Doel, speaking on behalf of Welsh school leaders union NAHT Cymru, also criticised the move, saying that the Labour-run Welsh government had not given a reason as to why such a move was needed.

“Evidence shows that keeping children in school for longer does not increase a child’s capacity to learn; the focus should be on providing quality teaching and learning during schools’ hours,” Doel said, also mentioning that schools do not exist merely to provide childcare.

“The fact that only 14 schools have signed up to take part when the government had wanted 20 speaks volumes,” she continued. “The profession is on its knees.”

As Wales discusses extending its schooling hours, England by contrast has seen a rapid uptake in homeschooling.

report published last month revealed parents were choosing to take their children’s education into their own hands due to their own “philosophical and lifestyle choices”, as well as health reasons.

Education in the U.S. has meanwhile become a political battleground, with the American National School Board Association demanding that certain parents who voice concerns at board meetings be branded “domestic terrorists“.

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