Government criticises shorter school weeks

An increasing number of schools are considering changes to their timetable to cut costs, with recent research by Schools Week uncovering 26 such schools in Birmingham alone, many of which have already implemented a shorter week. In one school, for instance, Schools Week outlined that the working week had been shortened by two hours; with the school closing at 1.30pm on a Wednesday instead of 3.30pm. Teachers are then given Wednesday afternoon to plan and prepare for lessons without the school needing to fund lesson cover.

Nevertheless, while creating savings for schools, this approach carries potential implications for working families who may have to arrange additional childcare while the school is closed. The school has also needed to reduce the number of breaktimes in order to minimise the amount of time pupils spend outside of the classroom, potentially impacting upon pupils’ levels of concentration and productivity. Yet, despite such moves having potentially negative connotations, headteachers claim that their hands are being forced by the financial pressures under which schools are currently operating.

The Department for Education (DfE) has criticised decisions to shorten the school week, signalling a tougher stance on early closure and outlining that “it is unacceptable for schools to shorten their week when it is not a direct action to support and enhance their pupils’ direction”. It is unclear whether there will be repercussions for such schools, as the DfE has thus far declined to expand on its position. This ambiguity is compounded by what critics see as the DfE lack of engagement with the current crisis in funding for schools.