Parents back longer school days to help the Covid generation amid hope that more hours in class could help children recover after losing months of learning during lockdown
The majority of parents want longer school days to help their children recover after losing months of learning and vital life experiences during lockdown.
A survey found that 51 per cent of parents support pupils spending extra time each day on activities such as sport and drama.
Only 19 per cent were opposed to the proposal, the YouGov poll revealed, while another 20 per cent said they would follow their school’s decision.
Last night, the plan championed by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think-tank was backed by former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio, putting ministers under fresh pressure to act.
He said: ‘After the damage done to children by Covid restrictions, we owe it to them to make a new start. The plan is here – all it now needs is the political will to make it happen.
‘Pupils at public schools get hours of extra-curricular activity every week, including sport, drama and music. State school pupils, especially those from the poorest backgrounds, get far fewer of these life-enhancing opportunities.
‘The CSJ plan would help to narrow this gap to the benefit of millions of children and society as a whole.’
The majority of parents want longer school days to help their children recover after losing months of learning and vital life experiences during lockdown. A survey found that 51 per cent of parents support pupils spending extra time each day on activities such as sport and drama
The call comes amid increasing concern over the toll of lockdowns and Covid restrictions on the young.
The CSJ unearthed data showing that almost 100,000 pupils – dubbed the ‘lost children of lockdown’ – failed to return to class after lockdown last autumn.
The think-tank, founded by former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, estimates that, pupils across England have missed almost a billion days in school since the start of the pandemic. The CSJ is campaigning for all children to be given five hours a week in extra classes covering areas such as sport, drama, music, art, cooking and debating.
Under its proposal, community organisations would provide the extra lessons rather than teachers, and they would be funded directly by the Department for Education.
The YouGov survey found that one in five parents said their children did zero ‘enrichment’ activities in an average week, rising to one in four among less wealthy families.
The YouGov survey found that one in five parents said their children did zero ‘enrichment’ activities in an average week, rising to one in four among less wealthy families
Parents in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber were more than twice as likely as those in London to say their children did not take part in sport or drama.
Yet parents of all social groups support the idea of mandatory after-school activities. Between 30 and 60 minutes a day was the most popular length of lesson.
CSJ chief executive Andy Cook said: ‘Children are disengaging from school and broader society at a frightening pace. As well as helping families to stay together, and helping parents to support their children, we should encourage schools to play their part in rebuilding society.
‘The evidence suggests pupils should engage more fully in their education – both academically and more generally. Extra-curricular activities boost their mental and physical health.’
A government spokesman said: ‘We have committed to an ambitious, long-term education recovery plan, investing over £3million and significantly expanding our tutoring programme to make up for learning lost during the pandemic.’
The Department for Education is still considering reforms to school hours after ‘catch-up tsar’ Sir Kevan Collins quit when his £15million plans were rejected.
Minister: Keep bubbles at lunch to boost discipline
Schools should consider keeping children in lunch ‘bubbles’ this term to improve their behaviour, Gavin Williamson has suggested.
The Education Secretary is encouraging headteachers to extend the Covid measure because it has other benefits beyond restricting the virus.
The bubble system, which saw pupils eat with the same group every day to stop the virus spreading, has been scrapped for the new term this week. However, Mr Williamson said headteachers found it a great opportunity to teach ‘family dining’ – including table manners and social skills. He told the Mail: ‘It brings so many benefits – not just to children but to the whole ethos of the school…
‘Not all children will have that regular experience of being sat around a family dinner table. I think it’s an important part of their personal development and it supports… their educational development as well.’