Changing the length of the school day

The Key
The Key
Not long ago, The Independent reported about a top-performing comprehensive state school in east London changing over to a four and a half day week, believing that it would lead to greater pupil productivity and a happier workforce. We looked into the process of changing the length of the school day and the best steps to follow to ensure that the transition happens smoothly.

Whose responsibility is it? 

In maintained schools, the governing board is responsible for setting the length of the school day. You can set the school day as you see fit, as long as every school day has two sessions divided by a break. This is set out in Department for Education guidance on school attendance (page 15).

Usual process

  1. The headteacher draws up plans to change the school day
  2. The headteacher presents the plans to governors, who discuss and scrutinise them
  3. The school consults with parents and other stakeholders
  4. The headteacher or other senior leader analyses the responses, and presents them to the governing board
  5. The board considers the responses, and decides whether to go ahead with the proposed changes

It’s a good idea to consult relevant parties: 

  • Parents

It’s helpful to consult with parents on any changes to the school day (see the DfE guidance). Changing the school day could alter their childcare or working arrangements, and consulting shows you’re being considerate of their needs.

The principal education welfare officer at Haringey Council recommended that you consult parents and explain the proposed changes and the reasoning behind them.

  • Other parties

Think about who else might be affected by changes you make to the school day. It’s a good idea to give them a chance to contribute to your plans. For example, you could talk to:

  • The local authority
  • Bus companies used to transport pupils to school
  • Nearby schools that pupils’ siblings may attend
  • Staff who run before and after school clubs

Give half a term’s notice

Give parents a minimum of half a term’s notice before adjusting the timing of the school day. This will give them enough time to discuss it with you if they wish, and sort out childcare or working arrangements if necessary.

Consultation template and examples

A good way of consulting is to send a letter setting out:

  • Your proposed new timings for the school day
  • How your new times differ from the timing of your current school day
  • Why you want to make the changes
  • Where and how parents can send in their comments

Usually this letter is sent by the headteacher, but could be from governors if you prefer.

Example: Secondary academy in Cumbria

Workington Academy ran a consultation for parents and carers on changing the finish time of the school day. Its letter explains:

  • The day will end at 3pm, rather than 3:15pm
  • The time gained each week will be used for “staff training and to support school improvement plans”
  • School bus times will be adjusted accordingly

Members of The Key for School Leaders can access a range of resources on a vast range of subjects covering all areas of school leadership and management at www.thekeysupport.com

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