A Longer School Day?


With more than 380,000 students aged 5 to 12 attending our of hours school care, and unmet demand for another 80 000 children as estimated by the the Australian ­Bureau of Statistics, the call for schools to offer services ‘above and beyond’ the normal school day continue to grow. For quite some time now, the rise of single parenting and working families has challenged the 1950s’ construct of the 9 to 3 school day. A few months back, Federal Minister for Education, Simon Bermingham, was quoted in The Australian as saying he was “open to longer school day” In that same article, there are references to schools providing services beyond the traditional school day.

Across Australia, there are already a number of ‘services’ both ‘within’ and ‘outside’ the school day. These services are offered in the form of early learning centres, primary schools, secondary schools and  K-12 learning communities.(I am uneasy with the term ‘services’, especially when linked to primary and secondary school; however, I use it for the purposes of this blog). Furthermore, and to complement these educational offerings there are out of school hour care centres. 

As part of recent conversations with my work, I have become aware of the different regulations and requirements for school settings as distinct from early learning centres, as distinct from long day care providers, as distinct from out of school hour care centres. In recent times there has been great effort and noted success in raising the standard of early learning, reflective of its importance, as there has been with out of school hours care. Despite these successes, the various educational offerings act as separate entities and ‘bolt-ons’ rather than integrated services. There is great work being done within each educational entity; however, the reality is they are not integrated. 

The idea of an extended school day responds to the needs of families to have children cared for in a way which supersedes the 1950’s school construct. We can challenge the idea of ‘what the school day looks like’ by providing an experience focused on learning which looks different and better for each student and family. However, how do we do this without providing more work for teachers and staff across all sectors? Another question might be, “How much more is the education sector expected to do?”

The conversation about an extended school day poses many questions. A third question, but with a more positive spin…..”Is there an opportunity to provide quality pre to post school learning with services connected in a way which acknowledges learning as a continuum and transcends the traditional boundaries of time and space?”

If we are to extend the school day, the answer is not more of the same with longer learning blocks as part longer days with more face to face for teachers. We need to be more creative than that! I suppose, my inquiry really is…..

…. In what ways can extending the school day provide integrated services which offer an all inclusive, learning focused approach to the school day?

There may be learning communities already doing this. If so, please let me know.

I look forward to feedback, questions and comments.




New pathways to ‘post school’ required.

I recently  spoke with Colin Klupiec from Learn Fast in my capacity as the newly appointed Principal Leader at St Luke’s, Marsden Park. Colin’s professionalism, deep knowledge of Australian education and strong desire for a ‘new paradigm for learning’, meant that I enjoyed our time discussing the future of education in Australia within the one local context of St Luke’s.

St Luke’s is a (soon to be established) ‘next generation’ learning community. As part of the conversation Colin and I discussed ways to blur the finish line of schooling. Currently, that finish line is when the vast majority of young people conclude their formal education at the end of Year 12, around mid-December each year. In NSW, the checkered flag waves frantically for 24 hours with the release of HSC results followed by the release of the ATAR* the next day.

ATARs have increasingly become less meaningful as expressed in a recent article ‘Not in our national interest’: Universities slammed over ATAR leniency’ by Eryk Bagshaw.  Universities have compromised tertiary entry standards in pursuit of growing enrolments. Increasing ATAR offer rates below 50 has been one of many approaches.

ATARs below 50

Whilst the number of university degrees is increasing, the value of a university degree is in decline. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, of bachelor degree graduates who were available for full-time employment in 2000, 83.6 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees in 1999. Since then, the trend has been….

  • in 2005, 80.9 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees.
  • in 2010,  76.2 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees.
  • In 2015,  68.8 per cent were in full-time employment within four months of completing their degrees.

It may well be that there are now more university degrees for less jobs or it may be that employers are looking further afield than the traditional degrees as evidenced by FYA’s most recent report. Employers in Australia are increasingly advertising for people who exhibit the ‘New Basics’ of Digital Literacy, Critical Thinking, Creativity and Problem Solving.

Enterpise Skills

Reading between the lines of the report, and with reference to Jim Bright’s article below, it appears employers may be unsure of how HSC results or  an ATAR number assists an employer to ascertain a prospective employee’s capability in these areas.

SMH Article

In the interests of best preparing our students for the future which awaits them, it is now time to look at more flexible post school pathways other than just the HSC and ATARs. These pathways would see students:

  • make links with industry by showing their work through their online presence, one which connects with experts across the world; OR,
  • create their own start up business in Year 8, 9 or 10 (possibly after many failed attempts) by asking them the question, “What problem do you want to solve?”; OR,
  • assisted by their wider learning community (not just school) to develop the skills for the surprising jobs of today.

I welcome your thoughts.


* The ATAR is The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) is the primary criterion for entry into most undergraduate-entry university programs in Australia. It was gradually introduced during 2009 and 2010 to replace the Universities Admission Index, Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank and Tertiary Entrance Rank.