Teachers reject proposal to extend classroom hours and reduce holidays

In March 2020, the pandemic forced children away from their classrooms and into a home education programme nobody was prepared for – pupils, parents or teachers. Since then, young people in secondary and primary education have endured ongoing disruption thanks to national and localised lockdowns, in-school Covid-19 outbreaks diminishing year group bubbles and periods in self-isolation from catching or coming into close contact with the virus.

This absence has led to a lack of education provided to students of all ages and a further widening of a gap already in play within the UK system where many are already at a disadvantage. It’s no wonder, then, the Government has been left contemplating how it might deliver parts of a curriculum many of our country’s young people are still to receive, recently proposing a catch-up system including longer school days and shorter holiday breaks as an effective means to retrieve lost learning time.

While it’s something parents might feel worthwhile, the proposition went out to teachers last month to have their say. One of the sector’s largest unions, the National Education Union (NEU), ran a survey during March asking for feedback from some 10,000 members on and the results gave an extremely clear picture of their feelings towards the notion with 98% saying they disagreed on taking this course of action.

Asides from an almost unanimous rejection to increase the hours per school day and reduce those across the school holidays were other key insights as to how teachers are feeling towards the education system, as follows:

  • On delivering the standard curriculum, 82% felt more flexibility was required to deliver learning missed during lockdowns.
  • 68% said more opportunities for sport and exercise were necessary while 66% suggested an increase to practical learning.
  • On the topic of mental health and wellbeing, 80% felt the Government should increase its focus to support students with 68% saying more should be tackle child poverty.
  • Regarding technology, teachers felt positive towards its use in education during periods of lockdown and 57% appreciated its use to facilitate online parents’ evenings.

With £1.7bn spent on supporting the schools most in need after the pandemic, the Government stated that it will continue working with schools and parents to achieve the best outcomes.  The NEU insists this can only come through their listening to the views provided in its survey and responding accordingly to those who have been on the frontline of education throughout the pandemic, both face-to-face and online.

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