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Ofsted Head Warns Against Lengthening School Day And Shortening Summer Holidays So Pupils Can Catch Up From Covid

Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, said she is looking forward to when the guidance on mask-wearing in schools can be ditched (Alamy)

3 min read

The chief inspector of schools has warned Gavin Williamson against plans to lengthen the school day, shorten the summer holidays and introduce five-term years to help pupils catch up on learning after the pandemic.

Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, said similar ideas have not been a “long-standing success in the past”, adding: “I don’t think many of those have persisted.”

She was speaking after the the education secretary confirmed these options were on the table as part of 18-month plans to tackle the impact of Covid-19.

And she also said she hopes “the whole paraphernalia of masks and testing is only necessary for a short time,” as schools are set to re-open fully in England tomorrow.

Spielman said kids have been “lonely, bored, miserable" in lockdown and deserve a “full ration of schooling”, but told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "There’s no point adding time here and ridding time there if you don’t get a groundswell of support.

"If children simply don’t turn up for extra time or summer schools for example, you could end up putting a lot of effort into something that doesn’t achieve the objective.

"So my concern is to make sure we go with the grain of what parents will embrace to make sure all children get the very most out of their education.”

The Ofsted chief inspector said children are "adaptable and flexible" around things like mask-wearing and "can live with a little bit of inconvenience for a few weeks,” but was looking forward to when the guidance can be ditched.

"I think the overwhelming thing we're seeing is the vast majority of parents, the vast majority of children and the vast majority of teachers are really happy to be going back to school,” she said.

"I really hope the whole paraphernalia of masks and testing is only necessary for a short time. I love the idea of children being able to come back in summer term able to see everybody fully.”

Earlier on the same programme Williamson confirmed there were a “whole range of different proposals” being looked at: “Whether it’s a five-term year, whether it’s lengthening the school day.

“But also measures such as enhancing the support we give to teachers, supporting them in their professional development, making sure they can be the very best of themselves.”

Asked if that included changes to the school holidays he replied: “We’re looking at holidays, we’re looking at lengthening the school day, we’re looking at a whole range of measures.

“We’ve asked Sir Kevan Collins [the recently appointed education recovery commissioner] to leave no stone unturned. 

“For us, we see this as one of those moments a little bit like the 1944 Education Reform Act that came out of the Second World War."

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