Petition Change the school week to a four day week
Reduce school to 4 days a week. The same amount of school hours should be spread across four days, rather than five. The school week should be Monday to Thursday.
I think that many teachers are overworked and burnt out. Teachers could use Friday to relax, or catch up on work. The Government has launched a taskforce to help reduce the workload of teachers by five hours a week, but we don't see how this will happen, and think reducing the school week to four days is a better option.
This response was given on 19 October 2023
The Government has no plans to reduce the school week. This would be damaging to pupils and parents. Collective action by government and the sector is being taken to address teacher workload.
Read the response in full
The Government is working with practitioners and unions to reduce teacher workload. Reducing the school week to four days would be damaging to pupils and parents and would not help to reduce teacher workload.
We know that the great work of teachers makes a difference to children’s lives and we know that most children enjoy their time in school. In the national survey by the Children’s Commissioner for England, The Big Ask (2021), more than half a million children gave their impressions on the return to school, following the pandemic. Children spoke out about how much they liked school, and about how much they missed it and their peers while schools were closed. Education was seen as particularly important by children who face challenges at school, including children with special educational needs. Overall, 84% of children reported being happy with school life. The report highlights how attendance in school is crucial for pupils’ education, wellbeing and long-term development. The Government considers that being in school across the working week is important for ensuring that children and young people can receive all the support on offer to them.
To ensure that children across the country have sufficient time in school to enable them to fulfil their potential, the Government has set a minimum expectation that all state-funded, mainstream schools will deliver at least a 32.5 hour school week by September 2024. Reducing the school week to four days whilst still delivering the same number of hours would mean a minimum school day of over 8 hours which would be tiring for pupils, affect their concentration and potentially have safety implications as it would mean travelling in the dark in the winter months. It would also mean very long working days for teachers, who would need to do their planning and preparation in addition to the time spent with pupils.
Reducing the school week would also have a damaging impact on parents, many of whom would need to make additional arrangements for childcare, reduce their working hours or potentially leave the workforce altogether. This would in turn put families under financial strain and have a damaging effect on the country’s economy.
Collective action is being taken by government and the school sector to address teacher workload. As this petition notes, we have launched the Workload Reduction Taskforce, a group consisting of a cross-section of experts including union and experienced practitioners, who will assess current workload-related issues faced by schools and examine how they can be addressed. The Taskforce will make recommendations to government, Ofsted, and school and trust leaders by the end of March 2024. This will support the Government’s wider ambition to reduce teacher and school leader working hours by 5 hours per week within 3 years.
Concerted effort from government, schools and the sector previously contributed towards a 5-hour reduction in working hours between 2016 and 2019, and we want to go further. We are also taking other measures to ensure that teachers and leaders are supported with their workload and their wellbeing so that teaching is an attractive career choice.
We continue to support schools to help them remove unhelpful practice that creates unnecessary workload - for example, through our School workload reduction toolkit (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/school-workload-reduction-toolkit). In May 2021, the Department for Education published the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/education-staff-wellbeing-charter): a set of pledges from government, Ofsted, schools and colleges to protect and promote the wellbeing of staff. This includes explicit commitments by the Department to continue supporting schools in driving down unnecessary workload, to make wellbeing resources easily accessible and to champion flexible working. We will continue to assess progress against the commitments and are reviewing what further wellbeing support may be needed for teachers and leaders.
To support flexible working in schools, we have published supportive resources on gov.uk including non-statutory guidance and case studies. We have also published a flexible working toolkit (https://www.flexibleworkingineducation.co.uk/dfe-toolkit), which includes practical resources to help school leaders implement flexible working and to support school staff to request it. These resources have been produced by school leaders and other sector experts, together with the Department for Education.
We are currently funding a programme focused on embedding flexible working in schools and multi academy trusts (MATs). This includes the delivery of supportive webinars and peer support provided by 12 flexible working ambassador schools and MATs. This will build on the work of the ambassador schools the Department funded from March 2021- December 2022. We continue to work closely with the sector to identify and share examples of best practice, and to determine how we can best target future support.
Department for Education
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