28th March 2022

Change to Length of School Week Imminent

Schools in England must open at least 32.5 hours a week by 2023

On March 26th 2022, it was revealed that a forthcoming White Paper will mean that schools will be asked to offer at least a 32.5-hour school week by September 2023. The 32.5-hour school week is equivalent to 8.45am to 3.15pm, Monday to Friday In a statement, the DfE said: "Most school weeks across primary and secondary schools nationally are already this length, but there is discrepancy across the country. A child who receives 20 minutes less of teaching time per day would lose out on around two weeks of schooling per year."

Currently 70% of schools are already open between 32 and 35 hours a week, with a further 9% open for longer.

Education Secreretary Nadhim Zahawi is due to set out the government's wider plans for schools in England this week in the White Paper, alongside a review of the support available for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Last year, the government failed to back proposals from then education recovery commissioner Sir Kevan Collins to extend the school day. Collins presented a £15 billion Covid recovery plan, but resigned after it was not supported by ministers.

Nadhim Zahawi

During an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Education Secretary Nahdim Zahawi said; "Currently 14 per cent of primary and secondary schools across England have school weeks shorter than 32 hours. Every child deserves support from excellent teachers, who, in turn, deserve to be backed by a supportive and inclusive school, whether they live in Doncaster or Dartmouth, whether they plan to study T levels or A levels, whatever their background. Over my time as education secretary, my guiding focus has been creating opportunity for all, with strong schools and great teachers for every child. Every plan and policy I will set out in next week's Schools White Paper works towards this goal"

Labour shadow education secretary Bridget Philipson said the plans would leave parents, teachers and pupils questioning "where the ambition for children's future is".

Reaction from The Association of School and College Leaders

General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton commented: "We are unconvinced by the benefits of introducing a minimum expectation on the length of the school week of 32.5 hours. The vast majority of schools already meet, or come very close to meeting, this expectation. It will be important to understand the factors which may lead to fewer hours in some schools. For example, it may be the case in some rural schools that start and finish times are affected by transport arrangements. 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." "We look forward to seeing the full details of the Schools White Paper and the SEND and alternative provision Green Paper."

How many school will be affected

In June last year, a report by Teacher Tapp revealed that 29% of secondary schools in the most deprived areas finish the school day before 3pm, compared with only 13% in the most affluent areas. No private schools finished before 3pm, and over a third finished after 4pm. Overall, 14% of schools are thought to be open fewer than 32 hours a week.

The 32.5 hour school week is equivalent to 08:45 to 15.15, with the government arguing that a child with a school day shorter by 20 minutes a day would lose two weeks of schooling over the course of a year.