DfE claims it DID review time in school, but won’t commit to publishing findings

Department claims findings informed spending review, but won't say whether they will be published

Department claims findings informed spending review, but won't say whether they will be published

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The government has claimed it did carry out a review of time spent in school and concluded tutoring and recovery funding would be more effective for catch-up, but won’t commit to publishing its findings.

Former education secretary Gavin Williamson said in June that the findings of the review would be “set out later in the year to inform the spending review, and a broad range of reforms and changes to our school system will be set out”.

But no findings were published in advance of Wednesday’s statement, which made no mention of any plans to extend the school day for most pupils.

Instead, the spending review included £800 million to fund an extra hour a week of education for 16 to 19-year-olds, as well as an extra £1 billion in recovery funding for schools.

Pressed on whether the school day review actually took place, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “The government said when first undertaking a review of time spent in school or college that the findings would inform the Spending Review – they have done so.”

They said it was “clear the pandemic has affected individual schools and pupils differently”, which meant more “targeted, flexible interventions” like the expanded tutoring programme and increased recovery premium, were the “most effective ways to support pupils to catch up on missed learning”.

The evidence was “also clear that any increase in time spent in school or college will be of greatest value to students in 16-19, given they have the least time left in education”, they said.

“That’s why we are increasing learning time for those students, investing £800 million to add an extra hour per week of education – or 40 hours per year.”

According to the department, the review of time spent in school looked at the current use of time in schools and 16 to 19 settings, international comparisons and academic evidence.

However, the DfE would not commit to publishing its findings.

It comes after Sir Kevan Collins resigned earlier this year over the government’s catch-up plans, later branding the £1.4 billion package announced at the time as “feeble”. Collins had called for a £15 billion package that would involve lengthening the school day.

DfE survey finds 12% of secondary schools finish before 3pm

It also comes after a government survey partly relied-upon by Williamson when he warned of “disparity” in school finish times across the country found that just one in eight secondary schools and very few primaries actually finish before 3pm.

In June, Williamson questioned “whether it is justifiable that some schools send their children home at 2.45 pm when others keep them in for much longer”.

The DfE recently told Schools Week in a freedom of information response that Williamson partly relied on a Covid school snapshot panel survey data from March to support his statements.

But in the March survey of just over 1,000 respondents, published today, 12 per cent of secondary schools and just 1 per cent of primary schools reported that they finished before 3pm.

Secondary schools were also more likely to start the school day before 8.30am (17 per cent, compared to 1 per cent of primaries).

Ninety-two per cent reported the school day finished between 3pm and 3.30pm, and the same proportion said it started between 8.30am and 9am.

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  1. David Crompton

    How strange. They manage to check the schools that finish by 3 o clock, but fail to mention why that might be eg starting lessons before 9.00 (often 8.30) with registration before that or shortened lunchtimes – in some cases down to 30 minutes. Research has consistently shown that students are more amenable to learning in the morning than the afternoon, which teachers have known for a long time, but then you don’t want to go asking questions of people when you know you won’t like the answers you get.