How long is a school day? How long is a piece of string?

One of the much vaunted ‘freedoms‘ which academies ‘enjoy’ is the ability to decide on the length of the school day.

Anyway, from September 2012, maintained schools will enjoy pretty much the same freedom, because the Secretary of State has revoked the old ‘Circular 7/90′ which specified minimum day lengths and the like in maintained schools.

One obvious issue arising from that is that Circular 7/90 provided a benchmark (the 25 hour week for secondary age pupils) against which to assess the position of pupils who had been put on ‘part time timetables’ which in my experience includes a disproportionate number of disabled pupils and pupils from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Of course, it will still be possible to argue that a particular student had been subject to (say) disability discrimination if they were receiving less than others at the same school but that does not remove the risk that the extra freedom for schools will be disproportionately at the expense of vulnerable pupils.

For full details of the Department’s announcement see here. But, in essence:

“School day length requirements

There is no legal requirement on the length of the school day. The governing body decides when sessions should begin and end on each school day. It also decides the length of each lesson and the timings for the morning session, the midday break, and the afternoon session.

Sessions must allow enough lesson time to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum that includes the National Curriculum and religious education.

Circular 7/90 which prescribed the minimum hours per week for pupils in each of the key stages has been revoked. The Department no longer provides guidance on minimum hours.

Changing length of the school day

Since 1 September 2011 all maintained schools have been free to change their session times quickly without having to follow a nationally prescribed process, but should do so in accordance with reasonable local procedures.

The Department revoked the regulations that prescribed procedures.

Schools are expected to consult and take account of the views of interested parties before they implement any changes to the school day

Academies, Free Schools and pupil referral units are entirely free to set their own times and dates for opening.”

  3 comments for “How long is a school day? How long is a piece of string?

  1. Chris Gravell
    May 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

    They say “Sessions must allow enough lesson time to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum that includes the National Curriculum and religious education.”

    “Must” implies legal obligation. Could one argue that, as NC gave rise to Circular 7/90 and for 22 years it has been accepted as stating the minima the NC requires, while this obligation exists, so do these minima?

    Also, can the Govt do this without consultation or impact assessment?

  2. Bernadette Keeffe
    February 20, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Hello, unfortunately spam free wordpress seems to be blocking or hiding all the comments and answers on all of the threads. So I apologise if this has already been covered, but if the length of the school day has been relaxed, then what legally constitutes ‘full time’ education?

  3. DW
    March 3, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    there is no longer (and certainly not for academies) a strict definition of ‘full time education’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *