Ministers go to war with teachers’ unions over plans for extra school time for children

MINISTERS went to war last night with teachers unions over school hours to raise standards.

School leaders must offer a school week of at least 32.5 hours a week by September next year under new plans to allow children to reach their potential.

Ministers went to war with teachers' unions over school hours last night in a bid to raise standards


Ministers went to war with teachers’ unions over school hours last night in a bid to raise standardsPhoto credit: Getty

Education chiefs insist that “no child is left behind” as currently, a child who gets twenty minutes less tuition a day loses about two weeks of schooling a year.

But Paul Whiteman, chief of school leaders’ union NAHT, said last night: “We hope that there may be a review of the evidence supporting this plan later in the year before these proposals are implemented.

“Just adding five or 10 minutes a day probably won’t do much, if any, benefit.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “The vast majority of school days are that long or a little longer or shorter.

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“We’re looking for much more challenging changes.”

“Where is the multi-faceted recovery plan? What do you want to happen in the extra 10-15 minutes that some students now spend at school?”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are not convinced of the merits of introducing a minimum expectation for the length of the school week of 32.5 hours.”

Figures show that 75 percent of schools had days that averaged between six hours and 15 minutes and six hours and 35 minutes.

Tory MP Tom Hunt, who sits on the Education Select Committee, said last night: “Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that teachers’ unions are speaking out on this.

“Young people’s education has been disrupted during the pandemic and unions need to put the importance of young people’s learning in the classroom first.

“You have to ask yourself if they are pre-school educated.”

Tory MP Jonathan Gullis, a former teacher and union representative, said last night: “There is no substitute for being in school.

“Ensuring a minimum amount of time is spent in school each week helps level the playing field and allows students to catch up on lost learning from the pandemic.

“Why would anyone reject that stupid belief but after seeing how unions like the Not Education Union have been behaving over the past two years we shouldn’t be surprised as they are more interested in keeping students out of the classroom than in it.

“I only hope that in the future we will continue to extend the school day so that all students get the best education they deserve.”

Whitehall insiders said the move was taken to ensure all students get equal classroom time – and the full breadth of the curriculum – regardless of where they live.


The push to get children into school longer after the pandemic is also seen as a key factor behind the plans to be released by the government this week.

The rallying cry was issued to build on the government’s leveling-up plans, which aim to have 90 per cent of students attain expected standards in reading, writing and math by 2030.

Details of the week of classes, which equates to 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Monday to Friday, will be published in the schools’ white paper, which will be published on Monday.

Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Every child deserves the support of excellent teachers who in turn deserve the support of a supportive and inclusive school, whether they live in Doncaster or Dartmouth, whether they plan to take T-Levels or A-Levels study whatever their background is.

“During my time as Minister of Education, my focus has been on creating opportunities for all, with strong schools and great teachers for every child.”

But Labor hit back last night, saying “for almost 8 out of 10 schools” there will be no “big idea” from government to improve school life.

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Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “After two years of pandemic chaos and six years since the government’s last school strategy, this plan will leave parents, teachers and students wondering where the ambitions for children’s future lie.”

The long-awaited Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Review (Senden) is released on Tuesday. Ministers go to war with teachers’ unions over plans for extra school time for children

Bobby Allyn

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