Unions and Labour criticise plan that is among suite of changes to be set out on Monday

Schools in England will have to offer a minimum school week of 32.5 hours as part of a package of reforms aimed at raising standards, which Labour and unions have condemned as insufficient to support schools that have been left “battered and bruised” by the pandemic.

Most schools already deliver a 32.5 hour school week, which is equivalent to 8.45am to 3.15pm from Monday to Friday. However, the government believes there are discrepancies across the country, since 20 minutes less teaching time a day equates to a loss of two weeks of schooling a year.

However, teaching unions said they were “unconvinced by the benefits” of introducing a minimum length for school weeks since Department for Education figures suggest three-quarters of schools already offer 32.5-hour weeks.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said it was important to understand the reasons why some schools have fewer hours, for example, some rural schools may choose start and finish times to suit transport arrangements.

He said: “Adding time on to the school week may sound straightforward, but there are many issues which need to be considered in individual schools, and we would encourage the government not to rush any changes.”

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of school leaders’ union National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), was sceptical that adding under 20 minutes to the school day would “bring much, if any, benefit”, and asked that the plan be underpinned by a review of evidence.

Labour criticised the plans for being too limited in scope to tackle the scale of the problems with educational standards, with 200,000 primary age children living in areas with no schools rated as good or outstanding and the pandemic widening the learning gap between richer and poorer children.

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, said: “After two years of pandemic chaos and six years since the government’s last schools strategy, parents, teachers and pupils will be left wondering where the ambition for children’s futures is. For almost eight in 10 schools the education secretary’s big idea is to carry on as normal.”

Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said the plans would not “address the huge challenges that battered and bruised schools face to support all their pupils during and beyond a pandemic”.

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source https://www.theguardian.com/education/2022/mar/26/ministers-to-make-school-week-a-minimum-of-325-hours-in-england