Committee to consider extension of school hours

31st July 2009 at 01:00

The commons schools select committee is to launch an investigation into a possible extension of school hours across the maintained sector.

Chairman Barry Sheerman told The TES that he and his panel of MPs intended to look into whether England's 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.

Gladwell's 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 a few 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, and Brixton Academy's school days run from 9am to 5pm.

"Children from more challenged backgrounds do very well during school time but fall behind during the long holidays, especially in the summer," he added.

The decision follows shadow schools secretary Michael Gove's pledge in March this year to allow heads to extend school days and introduce shorter holidays.

Mr Gove 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: "It's something that I have never looked at before and have always wanted to. It is an interesting area.

"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 wholly disproportionate to any evidence for change put forward by Mr Badman."

Summer debate, pages 24-25.

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