Opinion split on new school day plan

By Juliette MaxamPARENTS have expressed mixed reactions on a proposal to bring in a continental-style working day at a secondary school.St Helena School in Colchester is looking at changing its working day from the next academic year, so the school day would start at 8am and finish at 2pm and the lunch break would be reduced to 20 minutes.

By Juliette Maxam

PARENTS have expressed mixed reactions on a proposal to bring in a continental-style working day at a secondary school.

St Helena School in Colchester is looking at changing its working day from the next academic year, so the school day would start at 8am and finish at 2pm and the lunch break would be reduced to 20 minutes.

The change would allow for more extra-curricular activities, take advantage of the fact children work better in the mornings and solve the problem of a lack of space for pupils during lunchtime, especially in wet weather.


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School headteacher, Clive Waddington, has now outlined the proposal at a meeting attended by more than 200 parents.

Deputy headteacher, Kevin Prince, said: “Parents were very supportive of the school and very supportive of the school looking at doing this.

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“Parents who were most vocal were parents who had reservations because of childcare. We were expecting that. What they said was listened to by governors and staff. We are only at a consultation stage.”

A questionnaire will be sent to all parents in the next fortnight to gauge their opinions about the proposal.

Mr Prince said: “Unless we have a significant majority in favour, the proposal will not go ahead.”

The plan has the broad backing of teachers and the support of non-class staff, although it has been criticised by Jerry Glazier, general secretary of the Essex branch of the National Union of Teachers.

He said the earlier hours and reduced lunch hour could have a negative effect on teachers' families and health.

The school day at St Helena currently starts at 8.35am and finishes at 3.15pm, with a 45-minute lunch break.

Mr Prince said at the moment the lunch break was too short for many extra-curricular activities, which could be done after school if the day finished at 2pm.

“Lots of staff would give up time to do something they're interested in with children who are highly-motivated,” he added.

“The Government is talking about a funding scheme for extra-curricular activities. If we could get this, we could pay other staff to come in.”

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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