Labour Call For A Longer School Day In Education Overhaul
Pupils should be required to remain in school long after the conventional 3.30pm finishing time to acclimatise them to a “work-like timetable”, it is claimed.
Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, says an extended day would keep children off the streets, stop them being sucked into local gangs and give the most deprived pupils a place to study away from “chaotic” home lives.
In a speech on Thursday, he will also suggest that pupils should be grouped by ability or interests within schools – rather than age.
The comments are made as he announces a Labour review into the relationship between schools and the world of work.
The project – led by Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield and former chairman of the Commons education select committee – will investigate the extent to which education meets the needs of the modern economy.
It comes after a survey by business leaders found that as many as a third of young people were not fit for the workplace.
Launching the review at the North of England Education Conference in Leeds, Mr Twigg will say that 21st century schools are often “still organised like factories”.
“The workers down tools when they hear the bell ring, and are strictly separated into production lines, focussed on building the constituent parts of knowledge, maths, science etc,” he says.
“At the same time, students are rigidly separated. Taught in batches, not by ability or interest, but by their own date of manufacture.
“While noble in its origins, this 19th century form of industrial education feels distinctly ill at ease with the demands of a modern, globalised economy, which demands collaboration, innovation, entrepreneurship, and an appreciation that developing value comes not from a more efficient forms of production, but more skilled ones.”
Some of the Government’s flagship academies and free schools have already taken advantage of powers to shake up the academic year by axing traditional holidays and staging booster lessons outside the normal timetable.
One school in Norwich is open for six days a week – 51 weeks of the year. Others are planning to keep pupils in school until at least 5pm or stage regular weekend lessons.
In his speech, Mr Twigg suggests a longer school day for all pupils, saying it “appears to be a smart way forward for a number of reasons”.
“First, for secondary pupils it would mean getting used to a work-like timetable,” he says. “A long hours culture has its drawbacks, but how many employers expect their workers to leave the office at 3.30pm?
“Second, a longer day can be progressive in nature. Too many pupils who suffer from poor housing conditions struggle to find a quiet place to study or do their homework.
“Providing a longer school day will give these students a haven away from what in some cases can be chaotic and troublesome home lives.
“Third, it can take young people, quite literally, off the streets. Numerous studies have shown that gang activity is often most prevalent in the hours immediately after schools close, and providing longer school based activities may prevent some from getting into trouble.”
He also praises some schools that extend the number of years they run GCSEs – from two to three. It allows pupils to start exam syllabuses at an earlier age if they are ready.
Mr Twigg says it represents a “realisation that effective collaboration must reflect a pupils’ stage, not their age and enabling both academic and practical learning”.
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