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'50-hour week' for stressed sixth-forms

Pupils are working harder than ever, as their schools contend with rising class sizes. Nicolas Barnard reports.

SIXTH-FORMERS are under more pressure than ever, with some working up to 50 hours a week, secondary headteachers warned this week.

The heads have blamed the curriculum reforms for the increase in pupils' workload. Students now take four or five subjects in the lower sixth form, plus key skills lessons. That means extra work if the quality of A-levels is to be maintained, the Secondary Heads' Association said.

Teachers are also struggling as a result of the new timetable, Some schools are having to raise class sizes and face shortages of key teachers.

Heads support the reforms, which aim to broaden the sixth-form curriculum, but have attacked the fact they have received little or no extra funding to implement them. They say they need up to pound;85 million per year extra to deliver the changes in full.

The association's general secretary, John Dunford, also said students should work no more than six hours a week in part-time jobs, if they were to devote the energy needed to do well in their studies.

The union had previously rcommended a10-hour limit, but free periods had now been squeezed out of the timetable, necessitating more evening and weekend work.

Heads expect students to spend five hours a week per subject in private study. Richard Fawcett, head of Thurston comunity college in Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk, who takes over this month as association president, said: "With school and travelling time, it amounts to a 50-hour week."

Mr Dunford said the changes had put "a lot of pressure on young people". He said: "Some, especially those depending on income from part-time jobs to stay on in sixth-form, may find it that much harder to keep it going."

The Government says it has given local authorities an extra pound;35m this year to pay for the reforms. But a strawpoll by the SHA found that many schools had received nothing.

The union said more staff, books and resources were needed. Some schools had been forced to create extra classrooms. Some heads had been able to pay for extra teachers - but others had been forced to increase class sizes by a third. The union said even those with money to spend had often been unable to recruit the extra staff they wanted.

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