Make school days longer so pupils can catch up, report says

Think-tank calls for an extra six hours of teaching during the school week to mitigate effects of lockdown.

School days should be extended so pupils in Scotland can catch up on lessons missed during the coronavirus lockdown, a think-tank has suggested.

The Commission on School Reform is calling for an extra six hours of teaching during the school week, with pupils staying later into the afternoon for two years.

A report by the group, made up of current and former headteachers, politicians and education professors, argues “there is an urgent need to plan for catch-up of the lessons lost”.

With five months of in-school learning missed between lockdown and the anticipated return in August, the group set up by the Reform Scotland think-tank said the proposal for six extra hours of lessons was “feasible”.

It forecasts the plan would cost approximately £200m over the two years, based on “very crude” estimates of paying teachers the equivalent for an extra day of work per week.

The report suggests an estimated 19,000 additional staff would be needed to oversee the catch-up sessions, which could be made up of retired and trainee teachers, plus university students from other disciplines.

In its conclusion, the report states: “Pupils will have gone 21 weeks without proper schooling. Inequality will have worsened. Schools know what is to be taught and teachers have great experience of enabling pupils to recover lost ground.

“The costs of doing all this are not inordinate. The main extra ingredient that is now required is leadership.”

Professor Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at the University of Edinburgh and a member of the commission, added: “The start of the new academic year in August is not only about returning children to school – it must be about ensuring that they catch up on the education which has been lost during lockdown.

“While estimates of the loss vary, there is no debate that it exists, and is particularly prevalent amongst the most disadvantaged.

“Catching up will be difficult and expensive, but not to the degree that it cannot and should not be done. £100m a year is a huge amount of money, but it will be dwarfed by the personal, social and economic cost of the loss of education during lockdown.”

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