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The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"Relying on teachers may be the weakest link in the plans"
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Katie Ivens, Campaign for Real Education
"The school day is ludicrously too short"
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Monday, 13 March, 2000, 08:25 GMT
Extra hours for school children
school work
Children may be able to get an extra three hours' schooling
Secondary school children in England could be entitled to at least three hours extra education a week under proposals to be unveiled by the Education Secretary, David Blunkett.

The education secretary is planning a shake-up of the school system with a longer working day.

David Blunkett
David Blunkett wants more variety in secondary schools
He hopes the idea will persuade more middle-class parents to send their children to their local state schools.

Mr Blunkett is due to set out his thinking in an address on Wednesday to the Social Market Foundation think tank.

The government has been trying to extend education outside the traditional hours of 9am to 3pm through a range of initiatives since the last election.

These have included summer schools in literacy and numeracy skills, which will be available to 55,000 pupils this year.

Government funding has also gone to support study centres, for children likely to find it difficult to do homework at home.

Extending opportunity

Schools have also developed breakfast clubs, and some are even experimenting with home-school computer links, so that learning is no longer centred on the classroom.

girls warming up
Many schools already offer sport
Surveys have shown that about half of all pupils have the option of one hour of activities outside school hours each week. One in five have three hours - an opportunity ministers want to extend to all.

At Hurlingham and Chelsea School in Fulham, west London, for example, there is an extra hour of school time.

At the end of the seven-hour day, pupils get to choose from about 90 activities including sport, drama and a homework club.

The school believes this benefits pupils from more deprived backgrounds in particular.

michael murphy
Michael Murphy: "Levels the playing field"
"There certainly is a comparison made between the facilities and resources available to those children from middle-class backgrounds and those children who have more difficult socio-economic circumstances," said teacher Michael Murphy.

"It provides a level playing field for those children."

But the weakest link in the scheme might be the idea that teachers will voluntarily take on the job of organising the extra hours, according to BBC Education Correspondent Sue Littlemore.

john bangs
John Bangs: "Teachers will not be happy"
The National Union of Teachers has told her that if teachers' conditions of service are undermined it will "act to protect" them.

"Teachers will react very wearily," said the union's head of education, John Bangs.

"They also will be angry because the word "voluntary", when the secretary of state says he wants something to happen, is really a meaningless word."

And far from getting greater opportunities, some schools could be so short of staff they will have to reduce their working week, according to the leader of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford.

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06 Nov 98 | Education
Boost for Net learning
27 Jan 00 | Education
Football centres boost learning
17 Feb 00 | Education
17m for out-of-school activities
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