Extend Scottish school day to let pupils catch up on lost teaching

The school day in Scotland should be extended to provide an extra eight hours of class-time over the week so pupils can catch up on lost learning during lockdown, experts have said.

Pupils have lost out on an estimated 16 weeks of lessons over the two coronavirus lockdowns, a new report today finds.

Retired teachers, trainees and other university students should now be among 19,000 additional staff recruited across the country to oversee catch-up lessons, according to the Commission on Schools Reform report.

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The plan would cost about £260 million over the next two years, but comes amid growing concerns about the impact of the schools closure on youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Scotland's school day should be extended to let pupils catch up, say experts
Scotland's school day should be extended to let pupils catch up, say experts

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There are fears this could widen the educational attainment gap between more affluent and less well-off parts of the country.

Professor Lindsay Paterson, from the University of Edinburgh and a member of the commission, has updated previous research looking at the extent of the gap.

She said: “Children in Scotland will have lost around four months of schooling since March. That’s around 40 per cent of a normal school year.

“Although thousands of teachers have been providing good quality online learning and parents have done the best they can, the closures have led to a massive loss of learning. Many children will have actually gone backwards because such interruptions can lead to them forgetting what they have learnt before.

“With an end to closures now in sight, it is time to turn our attention to how to recover the learning that has been lost. We estimate it at 16 weeks and have suggested an eight-hour extension to the school week for two years, or a five-hour extension over three years.

“The Scottish and UK governments are to be commended on the significant sums of money they are spending on the Covid recovery. There will be no money better spent than on ensuring our children’s education does not suffer.”

Schools have been closed since the turn of the year and had previously shut down last March until the start of the current term in August.

The commission has released a new paper based on recent research, but covering the latest period of closure.

The report finds that by the time that Scottish schools resume fully in March, at the earliest, pupils will have lost the equivalent of 16 weeks of proper education this year and last.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This proposal is very radical and would be difficult for very many families to accommodate. We do recognise, however, the need to look at bold ideas and, while local authorities determine the length of the school day, there is an interesting debate to be had around how best to help tackle the impacts of Covid.”

Ministers say over £200 million has been invested in education recovery during the pandemic, resulting in an additional 1,400 teachers and over 200 support staff being appointed.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said “massive investment” was indeed to support education recovery.

But he added: “ Rather than taking a formulaic approach to adding in extra hours of formal schooling, we should be looking at more support for individual pupils by creating smaller class sizes, specialist support for pupils with additional support needs, and targeted and meaningful support for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

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