Longer schools days and shorter summer holidays ‘under consideration’ to help pupils catch up
Longer school days, shorter summer holidays and five-term years are all options that are currently being considered by the government to help pupils catch up on lost learning.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that a “whole range of different” proposals are being mulled as pupils across England returned to classrooms today (8 March) as part of the first stage of easing lockdown.
‘A whole range of measures’
Speaking on Sky News on Sunday (7 March), Mr Williamson said that as well as helping children to catch up on learning, the government is also considering enhancing the support offered to teachers, and ensuring “they can be the very best of themselves”.
He said: “We’re looking at holidays, we’re looking at lengthening the school day, we’re looking at a whole range of measures.
"We're asked Sir Kevan Collins (the Government’s education catch-up tsar) to leave no stone unturned."
Mr Williamson likened the potential changes to the 1944 Education Reform Act, which was enforced after the Second World War, and stressed that the proposals being considered would be “evidence based”.
He said: “How can we be transformative in terms of changing and improving for young people?
“We’ve got to look at what is going to have the biggest positive impact on children’s lives.
“That’s the approach that we’re taking and that’s what we’re looking at - how we can improve the outcomes for children.”
Mr Williamson said he has asked Sir Kevan to look at the programme of changes over a period of 18 months, adding “there won’t be one day where it’s all announced”.
Ministers have already announced that summer schools will be put on this August to help pupils who have been badly affected by the lockdown restrictions, while in GCSE and A-Level exams have also been scrapped this summer. Teachers will instead be responsible for assigning grades to pupils.
Return to classrooms for pupils
While schools have remained open during the third national lockdown for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, the majority of pupils have been forced to continue their learning at home.
However, today (8 March) marked the full reopening of schools to all pupils, with outdoor after-school sports and activities also allowed to restart.
Secondary schools are permitted to stagger the return of pupils over the week to allow for mass Covid testing, with the government advising that these pupils wear face coverings where social distancing is not possible.
Pupils will receive three Covid-19 lateral flow tests before using at-home kits twice a week. Downing Street has said nearly 57 million testing kits have been delivered to schools and colleges, and some have already begun testing.
Primary school children are not required to carry out Covid-19 tests or wear face masks on their return.
Students at university who are taking practical courses which require specialist equipment and facilities can now attend face-to-face teaching, while all other students should continue to learn remotely.
Boris Johnson said the full reopening of schools "marks a truly national effort to beat this virus" and the beginning of lockdown being eased.
He added that while it is “only a small relaxation of the rules”, the changes will bring “joy and relief” to families after months of “tough restrictions”.