ASCL Cymru comment on trial of longer school days in Wales

01/02/2022

Eithne Hughes, Director of ASCL Cymru, comments on the announcement by the Welsh government of a trial of longer school days to aid education recovery. 

 

“We clearly support any plans designed to help disadvantaged learners in Wales to recover from the severe and continuing disruption to education caused by the pandemic.

“We do, however, have severe reservations about how the Welsh government is going about this. In particular, we worry that unprecedented changes to the school day that have potentially massive implications for the future of education right across Wales are being trialled in such a small number of schools and colleges. 

“Decisions about the future of education for future generations of learners may be made on a trial that involves less than 1% of the schools and colleges in Wales and involving fewer than ‚Äčthan 0.5% of the 407,000 learners across the country.

“Only 12 schools – four secondary and eight primary – and one college have volunteered to take part in the study. That fact alone speaks volumes about the way the Welsh government has approached this, as it originally asked for 20 volunteers. 

“‚ÄčAny study with this sum of investment and which will guide reforms of the future should at least reflect the huge diversity of schools and colleges across Wales. But we note, for example that there are no Welsh medium secondary schools involved and this means the trial will be unrepresentative of the range of schools. 

“We further note that the Welsh government has found £2 million of funding for the trial, with each of the participants set to receive more than £153,000. If it is successful and results in national proposals to reform the school day, we can only hope that the Education Minister is prepared to allocate the £22.8 million needed to give the other 1,520 schools and colleges across the country the same level of financial support.

“Since we learned the trial was going ahead several months ago we have been challenging the Welsh government to provide the research behind the reform of the school day and year that backs up its thinking and how that affects learner attainment, their welfare and wellbeing, as well as on the workload of education staff.

“We have now seen that research and it is flimsy in the extreme, offering little sound or reasoned evidence for believing that reforming the school day and year can have the desired effect of helping learners to recover from the debilitating effects of the pandemic.

“The Welsh government has shown some determination to think outside the box in running this trial, which has potentially profound implications for the lives of every learner in Wales and their families, as well as for the conditions of service of thousands of education staff. But the reasoning behind it and the way it is being conducted will quite rightly be questioned by everyone with an interest in education in Wales.”