Leeds education conference: Labour want longer school days - and government agrees

Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg
Have your say

SHADOW education secretary Stephen Twigg told an audience in Leeds today that lengthening the school day may be a good way of preparing youngsters for the world of work.

Speaking at the North of England Education Conference, Mr Twigg said a number of schools had taken up the initiative and it appeared to have positive results.

He said he was keen to explore school-led initiatives as he announced a review into education and the world of work.

Labour’s School to Work review will take evidence from teachers, parents, businesses and universities, and will look at international best practice to consider how “we maintain our economic competitiveness, and support future growth”.

He referred to a recent study by the CBI which revealed that employers believe the school to work transition is not working. The research found that of employers surveyed, the proportion of their workforce that left school at 16 that was “poorly or very poorly prepared for the work place” was just under a third.

“In lengthening the school day, young people are getting a better perspective of the expectations upon them following the transition from school to the workplace,” he said.

“I am interested in exploring school-led initiatives such as this,” he told the delegates in Leeds.

He said for many pupils it would mean getting used to a work-like timetable and would provide a haven away from sometimes chaotic and troublesome home lives.

He said numerous studies revealed that gang activity is most prevalent in the hours immediately after schools close, and providing longer school-based activities may prevent some from getting into trouble.

Picking up on the issue in a question and answer session he did not specify particular hours for schools to adopt, but suggested a “later finish rather than an early start may be a sensible option”.

He said it was important to look at all the evidence before com

mitting to the initiative.

Mr Twigg, who was appointed shadow education secretary in October last year, referred to his own learning experience and an inspirational teacher called Mr Coward who pushed him to become the first person from Southgate Comprehensive to get into Oxford.

He said the experience had made him “passionate” about more young people from state schools going to the country’s top universities.

“Although universities should do more, it is a cop out to think it is all the fault of elitist dons blocking poor kids,” he said.

“State schools must be more ambitious for their pupils,” he told the audience.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “Stephen Twigg is absolutely right to call for longer school days.

“They can raise standards, particularly for those children from the poorest backgrounds.

“We welcome his support and look forward to working with him to persuade the teaching unions that they should embrace longer school days.”