Education secretary Michael Gove has called for state schools to offer longer hours as part of his drive to raise standards in the nation's education system.
Speaking at the London Academy of Excellence, he claimed the government's reforms are challenging the traditional consensus on state education, transforming a "bog-standard" system into one in which better standards are possible.
In order to further drive up standards, Mr Gove called for state schools to offer a longer school day of nine or ten hours, in a similar manner to independent schools. This would enable them to allocate more time for after-school activities and give pupils the chance to complete homework in a quiet environment.
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He also announced that he wants state schools to try out common entrance exams and said the government would support the Programme for International Student Assessment's plans to make its international tests available to English schools.
Mr Gove claimed the government's reforms are working and fewer schools are falling below the minimum standard of 40 per cent of pupils obtaining at least five good GCSE grades, including English and maths. In 2010, 407 secondary schools fell below the minimum level; this year, the figure is just 154.
The introduction of the English baccalaureate has proved to be an immense success, he claimed, increasing the number of pupils taking rigorous academic subjects. Foreign languages are enjoying a renaissance as a result of its introduction, with numbers of pupils taking French, Spanish and German up considerably.
Mr Gove said improved autonomy, more intelligent accountability and a focus on driving up the quality of teaching are the factors behind the dramatic shift in consensus that has taken place.
Standards in the UK's state schools need to match those in independent schools, however, which rank among the best in the world. The boundaries between the two sectors are beginning to break down, he claimed, with more independent schools sponsoring or co-sponsoring academies.
Mr Gove said the government's emphasis on standards of good behaviour would consolidate the successes already achieved. The publishing of the Department for Education's updated advice on behaviour policy would give those in teaching jobs the confidence to enforce standards of good conduct.