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Early start at Suffolk school

PUBLISHED: 05:57 25 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:20 24 February 2010

A SCHOOL in Suffolk is considering changes to the school day that would see students getting in at 8.30am and lessons starting at 8.45am.

Parents are being consulted by Holbrook High School about starting and finishing the school day earlier, as well as shortening the lunch break.

A SCHOOL in Suffolk is considering changes to the school day that would see students getting in at 8.30am and lessons starting at 8.45am.

Parents are being consulted by Holbrook High School about starting and finishing the school day earlier, as well as shortening the lunch break. Currently, lessons begin at 9am, with students getting into school at 8.45am.

Under the new system lessons would finish at 3.05pm, around half an hour earlier than at present.

Jenny Lee, the school's headteacher, said they monitored educational research and so far had banned the sale of brightly-coloured fizzy drinks at lunchtimes and even played music in some lessons, such as maths.

She said: "We have noticed the no fizzy drinks idea definitely had a calming effect and the music has been beneficial in some subjects. The children seem to work better."

Now the school is hoping to take the changes further on the principal that children work better in the mornings and that the lunch break is too long, leading to disruptive behaviour in the last half-hour.

Because Holbrook is such a rural school, the changes will also mean it will be able to provide more after school activity, as well as homework and study clubs, while still allowing staff and pupils to get home at a reasonable hour.

The school hopes to introduce the new pattern from September 2003.

One school that has successfully experimented with its timetable is Samuel Ward Upper School and Technology College in Haverhill.

Headteacher Howard Lay said the school had opted for special status two years ago and this had helped make the changes possible.

It has scrapped morning registration, opting for electronic registration in lessons, and lessons now start at 8.45am.

Lunch hour has been reduced to half an hour and break to 15 minutes, and the extra time gained means on Mondays and Fridays students go home at 2.30pm.

On the other three days children who travel to school by bus finish at 3.30pm and in the extra hour take additional GCSEs or get involved in drama, music and sport.

Parents' evenings have been scrapped in favour of three days a year when parents are given an appointment to come in for a session with their child to discuss their whole performance.

Students have individual learning programmes once they reach GCSE stage and in some cases can go to college one day a week for vocational courses, like bricklaying or hairdressing.

The lunch hour has been staggered so that not everyone has to eat in the canteen at the same time and eventually Mr Lay hopes it will be open all the time in the same way as many canteens are in the workplace, so that people can structure their day to fit their individual needs.

The new system was introduced last September and Mr Lay believes has helped reduce the dissonance between the rigid world of the school timetable and the more flexible situation in the world of work.

He said: "More than 60% of children have opted to do extra courses on Tuesdays to Thursdays. The children are in control of their learning.

"ICT is so powerful as a way of allowing students to learn at their own pace that I believe the traditional school format can't survive, though I think the school has to survive in a social sense because you can't teach social skills in isolation."


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