Schools war: Tories to take on unions with 32.5 hour school week

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The plan is part of the Schools White Paper which will be unveiled tomorrow. Aimed at driving up standards and helping children reach their potential. But the 32.5 hour week, which is already met by most schools, is set to trigger another face-off with teachers’ unions who have already raised objections.

Currently, some primary schools deliver as much as 30 minutes while a child who receives 20 minutes less of teaching time per day would lose out on around two weeks of schooling per year.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “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.

“The Schools White Paper, closely followed by the SEND Green Paper, will be levelling up in action, delivering fairness for every child and making sure nobody is left behind.”

But in a sign unions will resist the policy, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We hope that during the year before these proposals are implemented, there can be a review of the evidence supporting this plan. 

“Simply adding five or ten minutes to a day is unlikely to bring much, if any, benefit. The government says it will be guided by evidence – they need to meet that undertaking.”

In the 2019 election, Labour promised to cut teaching time to just 32 hours a week.

The 32.5 hour school week is equivalent to 8.45am to 3.15pm, Monday to Friday.

 Most school weeks across primary and secondary schools nationally are already this length, but there is discrepancy across the country.

According to the Government, the change aims to bring fairness for every child no matter where they go to school, and provide enough time for engagement with the full breadth and depth of the curriculum, as well as any mental health or catch-up support they might need.

It is one of many measures that will be set out in the White Paper, which will deliver action to make sure every child can succeed.

A national vision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and those in alternative provision will also be launched, backed by a full and open public consultation, as part of the long-awaited publication of the SEND Review.

The SEND and alternative provision green paper will build on education support and change the culture and practice in mainstream schools to be more inclusive, helping the workforce to adapt to every pupil’s needs.

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