Williamson looking at longer day and shorter holidays

Education secretary says 'transformative' catch-up plan may mean an extended school day or a five-term year

Claudia Civinini

Covid catch-up: Education secretary Gavin Williamson is looking at longer school day and shorter summer holiday

Longer school days, a cut to the summer holidays and extra support for teachers are all on the table as part of a Covid catch-up plan, the education secretary said today.

Gavin Williamson suggested there was a need for a "transformative" change as big as the post-war reforms that introduced universal free secondary education.

He was asked this morning about proposals being considered to help pupils to catch up on lost learning during the pandemic.

“There is a whole range of different proposals that we are looking at, whether it is a five-term year, whether it is lengthening the school day," Mr Williamson said.

Covid tests: Teachers struggle with parents' consent 

Exclusive: School openings 'not safe' in third of areas

Exclusive: Teachers' Covid death liability row erupts

“But also measures such as enhancing the support we give to teachers, supporting them in their professional development, making sure they can be the very best of themselves.”

Covid catch-up: Gavin Williamson wants 'transformative' measures

The education secretary told Sky News that Sir Kevan Collins, the government’s education recovery commissioner, would be looking at what measures to introduce over the next 18 months.

“We have asked Sir Kevan Collins to leave no stone unturned," Mr Williamson added.

“We see this as one of those moments – a little bit like the 1944 Education Reform Act that came out of the Second World War – about how we can be transformative in terms of changing and improving the opportunities for young people.

"But it’s got to be evidence-based. We have got to look at what is going to have the biggest positive impact on children’s lives. That’s the approach that we are taking...how we can improve the outcomes for children."

But today Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman cast doubt on the efficacy of the catch-up measures that the education secretary said he was considering. She wrote in the Sun newspaper: "Making school days longer or school holidays shorter could backfire."

Asked on Sky News why she thought the measures, which Mr Williamson had said were on the table, could backfire, she suggested that similar experiments in the past had not been successful.

She said: "Many experiments have happened in the past...There’s no point adding time here or moving time there if you don’t get a groundswell of support.

"If children simply don’t turn up for extra time or summer schools, for example, you could end up putting a lot of effort into something that doesn’t achieve the objective.

"My concern is to make sure that we go with the grain of what parents will embrace to make sure that all children get the very most out of their education."

Mr Spielman added: "I think a number of schools have experimented with things like five-term years – I don’t think many have persisted."

Download 10 ways to embed a culture of wellbeing at your school

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

Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

Latest stories