MINISTERS waged war with the teaching unions last night over schools’ teaching time in a bid to drive up standards.
Head teachers must offer a school week of at least 32.5 hours a week by September next year under new plans to allow children to fulfil their potential.
Education chiefs insist “no child will be left behind” as currently a child who receives twenty minutes less of teaching a day will lose about two weeks of schooling per year.
But Paul Whiteman, boss of the school leaders’ union NAHT, last night said: “We hope that during the year before these proposals are implemented, there can be a review of the evidence supporting this plan.
“Simply adding five or ten minutes to a day is unlikely to bring much, if any, benefit.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “The vast majority of schools’ days are of this length or a little more or less.
“We are looking for much more sophisticated change.”
“Where is the multifaceted recovery plan? What should happen in the extra 10-15 mins some pupils will now spend in school?”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are unconvinced by the benefits of introducing a minimum expectation on the length of the school week of 32.5 hours.”
Figures show that 75 per cent of schools had days that met the average length of between six hours 15 mins and six hours 35 minutes.
Tory MP Tom Hunt, who sits on the education select committee, last night said: “Sadly, it’s not surprising to see posturing from the teaching unions on this.
“Young people’s education has been disrupted during the pandemic and the unions must put the importance of young people learning in the classroom first.
“You do have to question whether they are pre-education.”
Tory MP Jonathan Gullis, a former teacher and trade union rep, last night said: “There is no substitute for being in school.
“Making sure there is a minimum length of time in school each week helps level the playing field and allows pupils to catch up on the lost learning from the pandemic.
“Why anyone would oppose this beggars belief but having seen how unions like the Not Education Union behaved these past two years we shouldn’t be surprised as they are more interested in keeping pupils out the classroom rather than in it.
“I only hope in the future we go further in extending the school day so all pupils get very best education they deserve.”
Whitehall insiders indicated the move has been made to ensure all pupils get the same amount of time in the classroom – and full breadth of the curriculum – wherever they live.
‘OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL’
A drive to get children in the classroom for longer post-pandemic is also seen as a key factor behind the plans to be published by the government this week.
The rallying cry was issued to build on the government’s levelling up plans which aims to see 90 per cent of pupils reach expected standards in reading, writing and maths by 2030.
Details of the teaching week, which will be the equivalent to 8:45am to 3:15pm Monday to Friday, will be published in the Schools White Paper to be published on Monday.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Every child deserves support from excellent teachers, who in turn deserve to be backed by a supportive and inclusive school, whether they live in Doncaster or Dartmouth, whether they plan to study T Levels or A Levels, whatever their background.
“Over my time as Education Secretary, my guiding focus has been creating opportunity for all, with strong schools and great teachers for every child.”
But Labour hit back last night saying “for almost 8 in 10 schools” there will be no “big idea” from the government for improvements in school life.
Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “After two years of pandemic chaos and six years since the government’s last schools strategy, this plan will leave parents, teachers and pupils will be left wondering where the ambition for children’s futures is.”
The long-awaited Special Educational Needs and Disability (Send) Review will be published on Tuesday.