The 32.5 hour school week: what you need to know

New guidance shows the time will include breaks, won't apply to special schools and must be published online

New guidance shows the time will include breaks, won't apply to special schools and must be published online

Schools will be expected to offer a 32.5 hour week by September 2023.

This is part of government plans, unveiled in a white paper today, to “make sure children and young people can fulfil their full potential in the classroom”.

A new guidance document on the plans was published today, so here’s what you need to know …

1. It is not statutory, and includes break time

By September 2023, all mainstream schools will be expected to provide a compulsory week of at least 32.5 hours.

Note: this is an expectation – not a statutory requirement, but Ofsted will check.

It equates to a six-and-a-half-hour day, Monday to Friday, or the equivalent of a school being open to pupils from 8.45am to 3.15pm each day.

Most schools already do this, and the majority of those that don’t are within 15 minutes of meeting the requirement.

Also important: the minimum expectation is the time spent in school each day, not learning hours. So it includes break and lunch times, as well as any extra-curricular activities that pupils are expected to attend. It does not include optional after-school provision.

2. No extra cash for extending your day

Government is clear that schools needing to increase their hours will be “expected to do so from within their existing budget”.

They also add there should be “no additional cost to parents or pupils”.

Extending the day should be guided by school priorities for “improvement and learning outcomes for pupils”, guidance adds.

More detailed guidance and case studies to support schools in delivering this policy will be
published in summer 2022

3. Minimum hours do not apply to SEND schools

The government does “not think it is appropriate” to set such an expectation for specialist settings, including special schools, pupil referral units and alternative provision.

This is because they “support a wide range of pupils with diverse needs”.

However, government says that specialist schools “should share an overall ambition to increase the length of the school week where it is beneficial for their pupils to do so”.

It also does not apply to early years and 16 to 19 provision.

4. Ofsted to report on length of school day

The guidance states inspectors with concerns over a school’s quality of education will “look at whether the minimum expectation on length of the school week is being met”.

For those not meeting the minimum hours, Ofsted will “want to understand how they have come to that decision, and what impact it has on the quality of education provided”.

“Where it is clear that increasing the overall time pupils spend in school would improve the quality of education, inspectors may reflect this in the inspection report and will also want to understand the plans that are in place to meet the minimum expectation,” guidance adds.

Ofsted will be “mindful” some schools will be “transitioning towards” meeting the minimum expectations over the 2022 academic year.

5. Schools ‘expected’ to publish hours online

From this September, government will “expect all schools” publish their opening and closing times on their website.

While many schools already so this, the expectations will also include a “total weekly figure for the compulsory time pupils spend in school”.

This should be from the official start of the day (ie morning registration) to the official end, and include breaks. It should not include optional before or after-school activities.

“This consistent definition will be helpful to parents and others when comparing the opening times of different schools,” the government said.

6. School time to form part of census

The Department for Education will start collecting data on the total compulsory time pupils spend in school per week as part of the school census.

From 2023, schools will be expected to enter the typical total, compulsory school week for pupils, as part of the spring census.

The data will be used to find schools “not yet meeting the minimum weekly expectation so that they can be offered targeted support”.

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