The children in this article learn music using the Colourstrings approach



The Times Monday December 21 2009


'School will run ten-hour day to give pupils from poor homes a better chance in life'


Greg Hurst Education Editor



A state school with a ten-hour working day is to be established to test how extended timetables can enhance the education of children from deprived homes.

The Sutton Trust, whose aim is to improve educational opportunity for pupils from deprived backgrounds, wants to establish such an academy, Britain’s first, modelled on a charter school programme in America.

Its trustees will track the effect on children of an early start and a later finish over a five-year period, from entry to secondary school, up to GCSE level.

The school day would run from 7.30am to 5pm or 5.30pm to maximise opportunities for learning. New schools have more flexibility over timetables, as their staff do not have contracts with conventional hours. Longer school days are more common in the independent sector.

Research commissioned by the trust found that children with parents who were graduates spent on average twice as much time on their homework as pupils with parents who had O levels: 18 minutes per weekday and 21 minutes at weekends, compared with only 6 and 9 minutes. They were also less likely to read for pleasure.

A third of children (34 per cent) whose parents had little or no formal education claimed to have had no homework set during the survey period, compared with 10 per cent of pupils with graduate parents.

This gap was so large that the research authors, from the universities of Oxford and Durham, concluded: “This suggests that the children of less educated parents are much more likely to be in classes or schools that do not in reality set much homework.”

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said that the findings illustrated how a child’s background could entrench lower aspirations and underachievement, and longer school hours were a way of bridging this gap.

The model is based on the Knowledge is Power Program, a group of 82 charter schools in poor urban areas in the United States that use a longer school day to maximise learning.

The study also found that, among children from professional families, 82 per cent said they had access to a computer and 52 per cent said they had more than 200 books at home, compared with 53 per cent from poorer homes who said they had no computer and 12 per cent whose families had a similar number of books.

The research used data from 23,000 pupils aged 14-16 who sat GCSEs in 160 schools in 2007, and diaries kept by 1,000 children aged between 8 and 13 in 2000.

'We take account of the different times of day'


Case study Greg Hurst

King Solomon Academy believes that it has the longest day of any English state school. Younger children in its primary school start at 8.30am and finish at 4pm. Those attending catch-up classes stay until 5pm.

Its secondary school, which opened in September with two classes for 12-year-olds, operates from 7.50am to 5pm. Pupils given a detention stay until 5.45pm. As a new academy it is building the school year by year.

Children are given a snack of fruit with their morning break, have an hour-long lunchtime and another 15 minute afternoon break with a more substantial snack.

The ‘all-through’ academy in Westminster, Central London, whose primary school opened two years ago, currently has 262 pupils and will grow to 870 as new year groups arrive.

Once a month there are Saturday activities such as trips to museums and sporting events and there is a two-week summer school to prepare children for secondary school.

In its first Ofsted inspection last month, which looked closely at progress and attainment, the academy was judged outstanding.

Venessa Willms, the head of King Solomon’s primary school, said that the curriculum was structured to ensure that pupils were “completely engaged”.

“There was a concern that many parents raised initially, that their children would be exhausted by this day,” Ms Willms said. “It is about making sure that the curriculum that we offer is an extended curriculum so it takes account of the different times of the day.” Mornings have a strong academic emphasis, while afternoons focus on music, one of the academy’s specialisms.

“The extended school is one lever to improve the life chances of children but there are many others that need to work in conjunction with that,” Ms Willms said. “If the quality of teaching is not good, no matter how much time we have with these children it is a wasted opportunity.”

The academy is one of nine sponsored by Ark, an educational charity committed to extended learning.


Copyright : The Times

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