The School Day: Could we do it differently?

The School Day: Could we do it differently?


The School Day: Could we do it differently? Conversations continue about whether the long summer break should continue. In fact, we covered this question in a recent blog.

But it’s not the only big question about education. Take the school day, for example…

For as long as most of us can remember, the school day in the UK has run – roughly – from 9.00am-3.00pm (give or take the odd 15 mins or so).

The big question is simply: Why?

It’s just the way it’s always been done…

Like many things in education, you could argue the things we do in schools in the UK are done for no other reason than that’s just the way they’ve always be done.

As we’ve mentioned before in our blogs, in many ways schools haven’t really changed that much in decades.

The school experience that our kids are going through now isn’t that much different from the one we had – and the one our parents went through before us.

Holidays, uniform, forms, assemblies, subjects, exams – none of these have changed that much at all.

And neither has the school day.

The school day is getting longer

Having said that, the school day has got longer. Breakfast clubs and after-school sessions are now a part of the typical day in most schools – although the traditional after-school clubs have been overtaken by catch-up sessions and interventions.

New government plans mean that, from September 2023, all schools in England will have to be open for a minimum of 32.5 hours a week. A 32.5-hour week equates to Monday to Friday between 8.45am to 3.15pm.

But the change is hardly revolutionary. It won’t make a great difference to most schools. 

Indeed, it’s thought that the new rule will only affect around 14% of schools which are currently open for less than 32 hours a week.

Does a longer school day improve results?

Well, the jury’s still out on this one – but the government’s move to increase the length of the school is indicative of something that many within education see as counter-productive – the notion that more is better. 

Catch-up sessions now feel like a permanent fixture of the school calendar. What’s more, even half-term and Easter holidays are often given over to various ‘Revision Days’. Summer schools of one form or another are extremely common as well.

In this country, our young people spend more time in school than most countries around the world. They are tested and assessed far more too.

But does this all lead to better results?

Well, sadly, the simple answer is… No, it doesn’t.

How does the UK’s education system rank?

There are many measures used to compare the quality of school systems across the world. 

The one lauded the most by the government is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This has a relatively narrow focus on reading literacy, mathematics, and science – which may explain the relentless focus we have on core subjects in this country.

The US and UK tend to score highly on overall global education comparisons due to the excellent reputation their university systems have. However, when the focus is just on schools, they fare far less well. The UK currently sits just 11th on the PISA tables – and the US is even further down in 22nd.

How do the most successful countries do things?

Finland is often held up as a beacon for others to follow and it’s not hard to see why.

Students in Finland do the least number of school hours per week across the developed world – and they get the best results. The Finnish school day starts between 8.00-9.00am and is over by 2.00pm.

Not only do they have a shorter school day, kids in Finland also have the least homework.

It makes you think, doesn’t it?  Maybe less is more, after all? Does this show that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to education?

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