PUPILS will face a longer day as the Government decides to let heads in some schools extend hours to try to raise standards.
As Yorkshire faces an education crisis and a teacher shortage, the radical proposal by Chancellor George Osborne may be a welcome addition to the raft of powers handed to individual schools from local authorities in the past six years.
The proposal due to be announced later today in the Budget signals the scrapping of the traditional Victorian school day, which ends at 3.30pm.
Schools will now be able to bid for new funding to provide their pupils with at least an additional five hours a week of lessons or extra-curricular activities, including sport and art.
This is the second time the Conservatives have floated the idea, as earlier attempts by former Education Secretary Michael Gove were killed off the School Teachers Review Body (STRB).
However, with a Conservative majority Government, the policy of longer hours has been resurrected as part of Mr Osborne’s plan to “put the next generation first”.
He said: “At its heart will be a bold plan to make sure that every child gets the best start in life.
“It is simply unacceptable that Britain continues to sit too low down the global league tables for education. So I’m going to get on with finishing the job we started five years ago, to drive up standards and set schools free from the shackles of local bureaucracy.
“I also want to support secondary schools that want to offer their pupils longer school days with more extra-curricular activities like sport and art. So we’ll fund longer school days for at least 25 per cent of all secondary schools.
“Now is the time us to make the bold decisions and the big investments that will help the next generation, and that is what my Budget today will do.”
Schools across England must also become academies, or have a plan in place to convert, by 2022 after Mr Osborne set a new deadline.
The full ‘academisation’ of English schools was announced during the Conservative Party conference by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said: “Every school an academy… and yes – local authorities running schools a thing of the past.”
However, as Mr Osborne pledges to make education investment a key part of his Budget and says more than £1.5bn will be spent by the end of the Parliament, questions may arise over why the longer day is only expected to be rolled out in 25 per cent of secondary schools, considering the difficulties in regions like Yorkshire.
This year’s Budget is Mr Osborne’s eighth and will be a test for the Chancellor as he attempts to battle back-bench expectations ahead of the EU referendum and his own personal leadership ambition.
His vision for a Northern Powerhouse will also be under close scrutiny, as the Chancellor’s Budgets have become increasingly centred on regional giveaways. Yesterday he announced £300m investment in HS3 – the high speed trans-Pennine rail service – and a road tunnel connecting Manchester and South Yorkshire.
Further assistance for communities hit by floods is also expected as a sign of the Chancellor’s commitment to the North.
Jon Trickett, Labour MP for Hemsworth, said: “The North of England will be watching George Osborne closely to see if he delivers on his many promises to the region. Vague promises will not cut the mustard.”
Other announcements expected are cuts to Personal Independence Payments for the disabled in a move that will save £1.2bn between now and 2020.
Overall today’s Budget is expected to cut £4bn as the Government continus on the path of austerity to balance its books.