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Education expert calls for Scotland to follow Wales on extended school day pilot

14 Feb 2022 4 minute read
Classroom. Picture by the Welsh Government.

An expert on education has called on the Scottish Government to follow Wales’ lead and roll out a pilot on extending the school day.

The Welsh Government have launched a trial at 13 schools and one college that extends the school week by five hours.

Henry Maitles, Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of the West of Scotland, said that the same pilot should be rolled out in Scotland while pupils recover from lost learning during the pandemic.

“I think that the proposal from the Welsh government to investigate the structure of the school day and year has merit,” he told Yahoo news.

“As always, though, the devil will be in the detail. My initial response to school improvement and closing the attainment gap is to suggest that we need to spend money on more teachers and smaller classes.

“But if these Welsh proposals are about improving social interactions and sporting, cultural or fun activities – as opposed solely or mainly to testing — and the government is willing and able to pay for it, then I think there is benefit. If a glorified homework club, measured by exam results, then doubtful if money or time well spent.”

He added that it would be “worthwhile” for ministers and educationists in Scotland to conduct their own pilot and also “consider examining” the Welsh trial.

“It will mean genuine consultation with teachers’ trade unions, parents and students,” he added.

“Some questions we might ask are: Who is it targeted at? If at schools in disadvantaged areas, what about kids from disadvantaged households in the schools in non-disadvantaged areas?

“Will it be compulsory for both teachers and students? How will it be structured? Will pilot level funding be available for roll-out if the pilot is successful? How are the unions, parents and students being consulted?”

‘Narrow the disruption’

The primary and secondary schools trialling the additional time in Wales will be funded to provide an extra five hours of activities each week for groups of learners, with sessions such as art, music and sport, as well as core academic sessions.

The school day trials will be focused on supporting disadvantaged pupils and schools particularly affected during the pandemic. The plans draw on international models and proposals made by the Education Policy Institute.

This work will be carried out in collaboration with the Plaid Cymru Senedd Group, as part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

Headteachers will decide on how and what is delivered in each school during the trial period, which is due to start in the spring term and run for up to 10 weeks.

The Welsh Government says local needs will be taken into consideration and that the funding provided for the trial will give schools the discretion to outsource the running of the additional sessions if needed, or to adapt existing activities such as after school clubs.

The Minister also confirmed that over the coming months discussions will take place with young people and their families, education staff, and businesses to seek their views on potentially reforming school term dates.

Minister for Education and Welsh Language Jeremy Miles said: “We are committed to reducing educational inequalities and improving learner and staff well-being.

“We know that supporting learners to benefit from an extended range of activities, including arts and sports as well as social activities and academic programmes, can be good for attainment, well-being and wider relationships.

“We are funding trial schools so that they can provide exciting activities around the school day, which can develop personal skills and resilience which will also impact on academic attainment. We will be working closely with schools and local authorities to evaluate the impact on learners and on staff.

“Over the coming months I’ll also be talking to young people, education staff, families and people working beyond the sector such as tourism and public services, to seek their views on reforming the school year.

“Reforming the school year could help to narrow the disruption caused by the long summer holiday on learners, narrow educational inequalities and to support learner and staff well-being.”

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