Call to extend the school day

Call to extend the school day

By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Teachers could be forced to work radical new hours, with the daily routines of thousands of children and parents disrupted, under suggested changes to make the school day longer.

The School Trustees Association, which represents most of the 2700 school boards, wants a national debate on whether schools should open well before 9am and shut much later each day to better cater for pupils’ changing needs.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has welcomed the suggestion, saying there is an “appetite” for fresh ideas to benefit pupils, teachers and principals.

Association general manager Ray Newport said any such changes would require a law change.

He conceded that extending the school day had huge implications for staffing levels, teachers’ hours and the effects on pupils and working parents.

But proposed changes to the education system by both major political parties, and a standoff with secondary teachers over their legally entitled breaks, presented an opportunity to consider whether the traditional school day was the best way to serve children.

“Schools should exist for kids, not for teachers,” Mr Newport said. “What are these kids going to need? Are they going to be able to access school outside the normal school hours?”

Mrs Tolley said teachers and principals had already suggested to her that schools’ opening hours be reviewed. “I welcome that. It’s a big opportunity for education [groups] to devise something that fits around the needs of the students.”

Schools could open for separate morning and afternoon sessions, she said.

Any changes would require widespread consultation.

“Some teachers might find they’re working afternoons rather than working nine to three. That might suit them or might not.

“I sense there is an appetite around the country to discuss some of these ideas.”

The comments come amid a standoff between school boards and principals with secondary teachers over new break requirements, due to come into force in April.

The Post Primary Teachers Association has advised teachers of their rights over breaks, but principals say the union’s hard-line stance would disrupt schools, forcing some to stay open till 4pm.

The School Trustees Association has now issued guidelines to all schools saying teachers’ non-contact time with pupils qualifies as a break sparking an angry response from the teachers’ union.

PPTA president-elect Kate Gainsford said teachers already had heavy workloads.

Non-contact time was essential for marking and lesson preparation and entirely separate from teachers’ legally entitled breaks: “It’s all pre-booked. It’s not people sitting around having a coffee.”

Some schools already had flexible operating hours, with many based around local bus timetables.

Secondary Principals Association president Peter Gall said the key consideration was whether changes could improve the transition from secondary to tertiary education and to work.

Note the poll on this page too:

Should the school day be extended?

Results as at 9:28am. You should be able to keep voting until midnight.
Yes (905 votes, 44.2%)

No (1141 votes, 55.8%)

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Should the school day be extended?

Yes (3639 votes, 42.5%)

No (4928 votes, 57.5%)

Stuff polls are not scientific and reflect the opinions of only those internet users who have chosen to participate