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Extension of school hours to be investigated

The commons schools select committee is to launch an investigation into a possible extension of school hours across the maintained sector in England. Chairman Barry Sheerman told The TES that he and his panel of MPs intended to look into whether school days were too short.

The decision followed the committee's trip to a KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) school in New York, which provides young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with more intensive learning, and after reading US author Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, whose research suggests that wealthier pupils continue to be educated even during school holidays, whereas that is not the case for children from poorer backgrounds.

Mr Sheerman said: "I thought it would be worth looking into, after hearing allegations that perhaps our schools didn't work our students as hard as other countries. "We saw at the KIPP school that a day starts at 7.30am and doesn't end until 6pm. Brixton Academy's are from 9am to 5pm. Children from more challenged backgrounds do well during school time but fall behind during the summer holidays."

The decision follows shadow schools secretary Michael Gove's pledge in March to allow heads to extend school days and introduce shorter holidays. He said he would like to bring in many arrangements already present in England's independent sector, such as Saturday morning tuition, and longer hours, as seen in US charter schools.

Mr Sheerman has also said the select committee is to hold an inquiry into home education in the autumn. This follows the Department for Children, Schools and Families' release of the Elective Home Education Review by government adviser Graham Badman.

Mr Sheerman said: "We have to make sure we get the balance right between giving the people the freedom to home-educate and ensuring that children are being well educated and well cared for."

Fiona Nicholson, a trustee of home education group Education Otherwise, said: "There are a number of questions around the rushed nature of the review and the sweeping recommendations, which are disproportionate to any evidence for change put forward by Mr Badman."

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