Top state secondary school to switch to four-and-a-half day week

One of the country’s top state secondary schools is to switch to a four-and-a-half day week which they claim will lead to a ‘happier, more productive school’.

The change comes following a similar experiment at a financial company in New Zealand, where switching to a four day week led to a 20 per cent boost in productivity and a happier workforce.

From September, students at Forest Gate Community School in east London, rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, will leave just after midday every Friday afternoon.

The school will remain open until 5pm for supervised study and talks from guest speakers though attendance is optional, a letter to parents confirmed this week.

They say staff will be given training to manage the shorter timetable ahead of the introduction of the new policy at the start of the next academic year.

Pay, holiday entitlement and benefits for teachers will remain unchanged, according to the school.

Staff will have the option of finishing early or spending the afternoon improving their teaching at professional development training.

It comes after Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand financial services company, announced a 20 per cent rise in productivity and happier staff after moving to a four-day week.

Forest Gate executive headteacher Simon Elliott says despite the changes the school will maintain the high academic standards which have seen them ranked in the Top 50 schools nationally for GCSE results three years in a row.

He said: “When you are a top performing school with consistently among the best GCSE results in the country you cannot rest on your laurels, you must always look at ways in to improve.

“We have looking into this long before the successful trials in New Zealand and are now convinced it will lead to a happier, more productive school.

“This is something we are undertaking in the knowledge that we have recruited the committed, talented and passionate teachers who will help us make this a success.

“It is about placing confidence in your staff and your managements capacity to employ the right types of personalities.

“We are confident that the introduction of a shorter timetable will not impact on our capacity to continue to achieve among the very best results in the country.

“On the contrary, with believe happier, less stressed staff who feel valued will help create the type of learning environment to improve productivity.”

Mr Elliott says the move will also help lift the burden on increasingly overworked staff and improve the quality of teaching.

He said: “This about moving away from a culture that has developed in the teaching profession of over burdening staff with excessively long hours.

“It is about teaching them to focus on the most important aspect of their profession which is engaging the hearts and minds of the young people they teach.

“The benefit to the students is that they we will be able to recruit, train and most crucially retain the very best teachers which means better quality of teaching in the classroom.”

He added: “We will be using Friday afternoon’s to invite in special guest speakers who can talk to our students about areas of study they are passionate about.

“This will not be compulsory but will offer students the opportunity to take their learning beyond what can be taught in the classroom.

“We will need some teachers to remain on Friday afternoons in a supervisor capacity but, again, that will be optional.”

By Tom Barnes

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