DfE warning against cutting school day ‘disingenuous’

Mary Bousted says new government guidance for schools on reducing days or weeks only for the benefit of pupils 'ignores reality' of funding cuts

Catherine Lough

GCSE catch-up: How online quizzes can help students catch up

New Department for Education guidance stating that schools should not shorten their days or weeks unless it benefits pupils’ education has been criticised as "disingenuous".

The guidance says that the “structure of the school day and school week should not be the cause of inconvenience to parents” and that it is “unacceptable for schools to shorten their school day or school week unless it is a direct action to support and enhance their pupils’ education”.

Related: 35 minutes – the reality of school lunchtime

News: Shorter breaktimes may be harming pupil wellbeing

Budget cuts: Council could cut teaching hours and close primary schools

However, the joint general secretary of the NEU Mary Bousted said the guidance was “disingenuous” and that the DfE was “ignoring reality” in failing to address funding cuts that lead schools to reduce their weeks.

“Schools are not doing this because they think it is in the best interests of the children, it’s through lack of funding”, she said.

“They know this inconveniences parents – they aren’t choosing to do this, it’s out of desperation.”

Dr Bousted said schools shortened their days or weeks out of necessity rather than because of a choice “based on sound educational principles”.

“They are telling schools to be virtuous without giving them the means to be virtuous. Schools are facing an impossible choice.”

Dr Bousted pointed out that headteachers cannot run schools on a budget deficit, and said that were they to do so, they would face penalties or possible conversion of their school into an academy.

She said any reductions to school days or weeks would “disproportionately” impact the most disadvantaged pupils.

And she added that the DfE knew the reasons why schools made this choice but were deliberately ignoring them in publishing “disingenuous” guidance.

The guidance states that schools must “organise the school day and school week in the best interest of their pupil cohort, to provide them with a full-time education suitable to their age, aptitude and ability”.

It says that if schools make changes to their days or weeks, they must give parents notice of this, as well as considering the implications for pupils, teachers, parents’ work commitments and childcare.

The guidance says that shorter days or weeks could affect parents’ choice of schools. "When applying for a school place, parents may be more likely to choose a school with a traditional, full-time school week and to appeal against the offer of a place at a school with a shorter school week.

“Schools should also consider the potential impact of a shorter school week on parental choice as part of admissions and admission appeals processes,” the guidance adds.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

Latest stories


Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 21/9

A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the ongoing pandemic will have on their working lives
Tes Reporter 21 Sep 2020
Coronavirus schools

GCSE 2020: Autumn exam timetable

This year there will be an opportunity to resit GCSE exams in October. We have the key dates and essential information
Grainne Hallahan 21 Sep 2020
video interview

WATCH: Tes Career Clinic two-minute tutorials

Are you looking for your dream teaching job? Then you need to watch our two-minute tutorial series. Grainne Hallahan shares her job hunting tips in the latest Tes Career Clinic series
Grainne Hallahan 21 Sep 2020