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.




5 thoughts on “A Longer School Day?

  1. I’m not sure that increasing the school day is such a great idea. The school day is a construct from the industrial revolution-mass education to prepare humans for the industrial economy. That has now morphed into providing citizens suited to the principles of neo-libearalism.

    There is not much evidence that the system we have works particularly well with concerns over numeracy and literacy to the point where many western nations have introduced standardised testing to force the curricula. Maths, science and language have become the stars in the educational solar system to the detriment of developing other talents and skills.

    The Finnish experience is ‘out of the box’ thinking. The evidence is that the shorter school day, doing less, projects, less homework and the freedom to learn and experiment has resulted in great outcomes.

    Steiner and Montessori have been shown to much more successful than the ‘normal’ system but there has been a reluctance by educational systems to adopt their practices.

    Self-Determined learning (heutagogy) along with greats such as Ackoff and Greenberg have posited that humans learn outside of school. As one school principal said to me recently, ‘The kids do their learning in the outside world. School is just a social event’.

    I’m not sure we should be thinking about extending the school day. chool should not be a child-minding service. We might need to think of shortening it and finding innovative ways for our kids to go learn outside of the institution.

    Perhaps we need a revolution against neoliberalism and a shift in thinking from economy to society. I think it is this level of thinking that needs to change in order for our educational system to have any hope at all. The teachers are fine and know what they are doing-it is the policy makers that are the problem if we are to re-invent a badly broken system.

    Sorry, Greg but you asked:))

    1. Hello Stewart,

      I really appreciate you taking the time to reply and there is little I disagree with when it comes to your thinking.

      If I am interpreting you correctly, you are talking about learning rather than schooling and how can we get more productive learning within a school day. The content delivered as part of the school day is one billionth of 1% of all there is to know in the world, yet, learning is packed in such a way that individual testing is the only true mechanism for measuring success.

      Reimaging learning world is to see school as launch pad rather than the destination. Minimise mandated requirements and maximise opportunities for students to learn and experiment through real world learning. We can better use time as I expressed in other blogs

      better use of time,

      new thinking about school hours, and,

      I have a dream school in mind….

      I think we are on the same page in lots of ways.


  2. Greg, I recall debating this 20 years ago. And it is perhaps more urgent now. The big question for me is should educators ‘react’ to changing needs of students/ families or should we be proactive in imagining a future where learning might be delivered & engaged with differently? More efficiently? Creatively? All the while without losing the human contact, the face to face rich relationships that are formed in ed communities.
    I welcome the opportunity to think about this question again.

    1. Hi Susan,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      To answer your question, we need to pro-active in imagining the future, rather than reactive, for sure!

      Reimaging learning is to see school as launch pad rather than the destination as per Valerie Hannon’s outlook. For me, that means – minimise mandated requirements and maximise opportunities for students to learn and experiment through real world learning opportunities.

      We can better use time

      with new thinking about school hours

      Thank for taking the time to comment.


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