Councillor asks whether Hertfordshire schools should open for longer to help pupils catch-up

The question was asked during a discussion on the county council’s ‘school improvement strategy'

Monday, 6th September 2021, 3:47 pm

Hertfordshire county councillor Laurence Brass has questioned whether schools should be opened for longer – to help children catch-up after the Covid pandemic.

With most children having had to spend stretches learning at home rather than in the classroom – there are fears that some will have slipped behind.

And at a meeting of the council’s education, libraries and lifelong learning cabinet panel on Thursday, September 2, Liberal Democrat Cllr Brass asked whether it was possible to extend the school day.

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During a discussion on the county council’s ‘school improvement strategy’, he suggested: “Three o’clock, everyone disappears.

“There are a lot of children who have a lot of catching-up to do because of covid – and such a short day seems to be very disadvantageous.

“Is that something that is in the county’s power to do? Could something like that not have been included in the strategy? To increase the school day to say 3.30? 3.45? 4 o’clock?

“We need catch-up. And catch-up is so essential in this post-Covid era.”

In response, the council’s operations director for education Simon Newland pointed to a national discussion looking at whether the school day should be extended to help children recover from the impact of Covid.

And he said: “Opinions vary about whether or not extra weeks of schooling or an extension to the day are actually a good or a bad thing.

“Its not necessarily the case that more and more and more means better and better and better.

“But in terms of things like minor changes to the school day, then those are matters for the governing bodies of each school – within the broad parameters set by government regulation, which state how many teaching sessions you have to have per year.

“And governing bodies do vary in terms of their start times in the morning and finishing in the afternoons and exactly what they do in-between. So that broadly is a matter for the governors.

“But I suppose I would also say that the learning experience shouldn’t end at the end of the school day.

“Many schools put on before and after school activities and of course all of them provide homework or home learning material for their pupils.

“So the pupils are not learning only when they are in school. They should also be doing their homework. So it’s not just 9 ’til 3.15.

Pointing to previous experience as a school governor, executive member for education, libraries and lifelong learning Cllr Terry Douris said that school would not be able to make changes to the school day without ‘some significant consultation’ with parents.

And he pointed to issues relating to the timing of school transport arrangements for those young people living at a distance from the school – particularly in rural areas.

But he also suggested that a good number of schools offered enrichment activities after school – including sports or activities such as debating.

The remarks were made at a meeting of the county council’s education, libraries and lifelong learning cabinet panel on Thursday, September 2. The meeting can be viewed online.