My School Day: report summary
We heard from more than 1,500 young people about the length of the school day and extra curricular activities.
We heard that:
- 69% thought that increasing the amount of time young people spend in their place of learning by 5 hours a week was a bad idea.
- 61% of young people told us that it wouldn’t improve their mental health and wellbeing, and 46% didn’t think it would improve their confidence.
- If five hours were added to the school week young people would want to see a variety of activities provided. The most popular response was for outdoor sport or physical activity.
- 89% of Young People felt strongly that these activities should be free.
- The majority of respondents felt that more disadvantaged groups would significantly benefit from taking part in these types of activities.
USE OF ADDITIONAL TIME
It’s extremely important to help young people achieve their potential, and the pandemic has undoubtedly affected many young people’s progress in a variety of ways. We applaud the Welsh Government for exploring ways that can help those impacted to catch up on the opportunities they missed during this period, especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. It is clear to us however that there is a significant amount of scepticism towards the idea of increasing the length of the school day, a point we will return to later in this report.
The ‘Additional Enrichment Sessions’ trials, run by the Welsh Government, saw young people take part in a wide range of activities like sport, arts and crafts, and cookery. From the discussions we’ve had with young people in our schools, colleges, youth groups, in the focus groups events our Committee has run, and from the responses to this survey, a consistent message we’ve heard loudly and clearly is that young people want consistent, effective provision of these type of activities and other life skills.
We believe that the new Curriculum for Wales provides an opportunity to achieve some of the objectives connected to these trials, and that the priority in the short to medium term should be to effectively embed it, including providing the type of activities included within the ‘Additional Enrichment Activities’ during the time they currently spend in school without the need to increase the number of hours. While we do not support the introduction of these additional hours, if the length of the school week were to increase, participation for young people should not be compulsory.
"I think that there are much bigger issues to do with the curriculum that need to be dealt with before adding extra hours of school on top "
" A reshaping for secondary education, more like key stage 2, is needed to improve confidence, resilience and wellbeing, with a reduced focus on preparing for exams and focus to a greater extent on the outdoors, sports and the creative subjects, via a whole school approach to health, wellbeing, PSE and RSE. Therefore, these should be available throughout the day via cross curricular teaching especially in key stage 3, becoming more specialised in key stage 4, and NOT via extra hours. "
"I would advocate exploring ways to make the existing time more effective. As an experienced teacher it is clear that the current schooling model does not fit all well."
We agree with those who responded to our survey, who overwhelmingly supported the call for these activities to be free at the point of access. Young people should be at the heart of decisions in terms of the type of activities provided and how they are delivered.
" There should be an element for the children to select what the activities are and this should be based on what they want to do rather than group them into what they should like."
As we concluded in the previous section, we fully support the need for the delivery of ‘Additional Enrichment Activities’, and other life skills to help young people achieve their potential and to prepare them for the future. We agree with those who responded to our survey that this would help more disadvantaged young people, and we would like to see these types of activities delivered consistently to give young people from all backgrounds access to unique activities regardless of their financial situation.
We share the concerns raised by the young people with whom we engaged, regarding how increasing the time they spend in places of learning could impact on their mental health and wellbeing. We know that different young people have very different experiences at school, and for some spending more time there will have the opposite effect to the objective – causing additional stress and anxiety to young people, because they’re spending more time around bullies, they have less time to do their homework, less opportunity to relax and unwind away from an environment that a lot of young people associate with learning, not relaxation and fun. As a Committee, we also question if young people have the ability to focus and the energy to fully engage for an additional five hours a week, and this could have a greater effect on young people with additional learning needs. We’d be concerned that this could lead to an even lower level of attendance and performance at school.
"For some people, school is a negative place, so forcing them to stay there longer to ‘help with their health and wellbeing’ doesn’t make sense."
Likewise, we’re very aware of how much pressure our teachers and other education professionals are already under, and how difficult the financial situation is for education institutions. We share the fears raised, that introducing additional hours to the day will both put even further financial pressure on schools and other places of learning, and will add even more to the workload of educators who are already stretched.
" Diversion of funding from schools, headteacher and staff workload, damage to school premises, disciplinary issues, increased pressure in staff retention."
" Ensure schools have the finances to do the activities in the school day. We lost a fantastic drama teacher who covered Planning, Preparation and Assessment sessions due to budget constrictions. Sometimes I cannot do some activities because we don’t have the resources."
As we’ve mentioned previously, we do not agree with the proposal of extending the length of the school day. A number of other issues would need to be addressed before we can fully understand if it is practical. For example, funding, changes to transport from places of learning, and how it would affect existing clubs and activities that are held outside of school hours.
While we agree with the concept of providing further opportunities for young people, in particular those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, we don’t feel that extending the length of the school day is the way to deliver it. This should be possible within current set school hours.
What do we want to see change?
We call for:
- Consistent, effective delivery of physical activity, outdoor adventure activities, arts and crafts, cookery and nutrition, and other life skills through the new Curriculum for Wales, delivered within existing school hours.
- Young people should be at the heart of decisions in terms of which activities are provided, and they should be free at the point of entry.
- The Welsh Government should review the need to increase school hours subsequent to providing sufficient time to places of learning to attempt to deliver these type of activities within the current school day.
- Any future trials should seek to address barriers such as transport from school, cost of delivery, and impact on education professionals’ capacity and wellbeing.
- Further research required to understand how much capacity young people have to engage in these types of activities during additional hours, if the provision should be uniform across age groups, and the benefit this would bring. Particular focus on young people with additional learning needs.
- Provide youth groups and organisations with the resources to enable increased provision of these types of activities for young people in communities across Wales.