Any moves by schools to develop alternatives to the structure of the school day will not find opposition from the Education Minister.
Peter Peacock made this clear after addressing the annual Edinburgh conference, organised by Edinburgh City Council and The TES Scotland. Mr Peacock said in his speech that schools would have to respond to social and technological changes over the next few years, which would include "being available from early in the morning until late in the day".
He added: "This will be very, very difficult for schools, and I realise that, because they have been used to kids turning up at 9am and leaving at 3.30pm."
Mr Peacock told The TES Scotland later: "If headteachers want to extend the school day from 8.30 in the morning to 6.30pm, I won't stand in their way.
But in no way am I suggesting that youngsters should be in school from 8 in the morning to 6 at night."
He acknowledged there would be contractual implications for staff expected to work shifts but believed these could be successfully negotiated over a period of time.
The need to look at the way schools structured their day reflected the fact that there would be much more community learning in the future, Mr Peacock said. Schools would have to respond to that. They would be at the centre of new approaches to learning and more integrated services, with the growth in online learning leading pupils to be less of a "captive audience" for schools.
The Scottish Executive is already pledged to run three-year pilot schemes of alternative structures to the school day, using volunteer schools.
This is set out in the bible of educational pledges, next in importance only to the partnership agreement between the ruling coalition parties - the Executive's response to the national education debate.
Pilot projects are due to get going in the middle of next year and run until 2007.