Fourteen schools in Wales to trial longer days with additional sessions including art, music and sport
Fourteen schools in Wales will trial providing longer hours this academic year, with up to £2m of funding available to support the scheme, Education and Welsh Language Minister Jeremy Miles has announced.
The primary and secondary schools – non of which are in North Wales – trialling the additional time 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.
Local needs will be taken into consideration and 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.”
Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT, said that when this idea was first mooted by the Welsh Government, NAHT Cymru raised its concerns over the motivation and timing of such a pilot.
“We have asked the government for the rational and the evidence to support extending the school day and, so far, they have not made the case.” She said.
“Schools’ core purpose is teaching and learning and while we want to be supportive of our families, schools are not there as childcare providers.”
“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.” Ms Doel said.
“It is deeply concerning that the government is prioritising a reform agenda without thinking about the impact on schools.”
“NAHT Cymru believes that WG needs to ensure that existing priorities are achieved and embedded before launching yet more initiatives. ”
“With the new curriculum, inspection arrangements, ALN legislation and qualifications already changing, school day – and indeed year reform, which is also being discussed – is a step too far.”
“The fact that only 14 schools have signed up to take part when the government had wanted 20 speaks volumes. The profession is on its knees.” She said.
“Trade unions were not consulted before the government went out to seek expressions of interest from schools to take part, and our concerns about the additional pressure this pilot would put on schools now, when we are clearly suffering from a staff absence crisis, have been ignored.”
“The failure to consult with and listen to the profession is concerning, demonstrating a real lack of unders tanding of the current situation in education. Now is not the time for piloting pet projects when schools are breaking point and we urge the government to put any further reform plans and pilots on hold.” Ms Doel added.
Schools across a range of local authorities have volunteered to participate in the trials, including:
- Blaenau Gwent
- Vale of Glamorgan
- Rhondda Cynon Taf
- Neath Port Talbot