Boris Johnson backs longer school day – 'It's the right thing to do'

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving evidence to the Commons Liaison Committee.
Boris Johnson at the House of Commons liaison committee on Wednesday. (PA)

Boris Johnson has given the strongest suggestion yet that the school day will be lengthened.

The prime minister told MPs "it’s the right thing to do” in order to help pupils catch up following the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s the first time Johnson has publicly backed the policy, with a review still being conducted ahead of a final decision.

Johnson, appearing before the House of Commons liaison committee on Wednesday, said: “The evidence on timetable, the evidence on lengthening the school day, wasn’t as powerful as it was on tuition, for instance.

“But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do, I do think it’s the right thing to do.

“The question is how you do it, what sorts of activities. Is it enrichment, is it academic, what’s the mixture?"

He added: “We’re doing a proper review of all of that to get the evidence that we want.”

Education minister Nick Gibb confirmed in May that the government was “considering all options to address lost education, including time spent in schools”.

But Johnson’s intervention on Wednesday is the clearest sign pupils will face a longer school day.

Watch: PM grilled by MPs at liaison committee – ‘Did you sack Matt Hancock?’

Last month, then schools catch-up tsar Sir Kevan Collins recommended schools and colleges should be funded for a flexible extension to school time: the equivalent to 30 minutes extra every day.

The current school day is typically about six-and-a-half hours long.

However, research by Cambridge University, published in May, suggested that if the extra learning time is more of the same provision, extending the school day may only give marginal gains.

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The research indicated that rather than adding extra classroom time, “schools may find it more productive to consider carefully the range and quality of activities provided”.

It said the extra workload, for both pupils and teachers, could prevent them performing at their best.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers union, also said: “The marginal gains that might be possible through extending the school day must be weighed against the costs of such a strategy: including the impact on pupils’ mental health, reduced family time and less time for extracurricular activities.”

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