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Norfolk primary 'reaps benefits' of longer school day

07/01/2013 Joanna
A Norfolk primary school has reportedly managed to improve its performance by staying open for longer hours, but without placing an extra workload on its primary teacher staff.

In its old incarnation as Greenacre Primary, Great Yarmouth Primary Academy was ranked as one of the worst 200 performing primary schools in the country and deemed to be failing by Ofsted inspectors in 2010.

In September 2012, the school - which currently has 440 pupils aged between three and 11- reopened as an academy with a new 45-hour week.

Lessons begin at 08:55 and finish at 15:30, but thereafter pupils in years three-to-six participate in a range of extracurricular activities, including music lessons, drama, dance sports and field trips, while there are also homework classes for year five and six children between 17:00 and 18:00.

There had been marked opposition to the scheme initially, with 13 pupils being withdrawn from the school and a petition against the changes accruing over 100 signatures.

Yet according to latest reports, the extended timetable has had a hugely positive impact and proven increasingly popular with pupils and parents.

Headmaster Chris Holledge told the Daily Mail that most children were taking part in the new activities, while extended study time had helped to bolster pupils' attainment.

He remarked: "To start with it felt like a scary adventure, but now it's what we do and parents have been very supportive.

"I would say the confidence change has been almost more marked than the academic. The drama and dance has been very productive and given them confidence. They're more conversational and sociable now."

Josefa Soares, chairman of the Parent Teacher Association, also told BBC News that most children were benefiting from the extended hours and that Great Yarmouth Primary Academy had become an "A* school".

According to Mr Holledge, teachers' working hours have not been affected as the school has paid for those in teaching assistant jobs, as well as other external staff such as sports coaches, to come in and conduct the additional classes.

Scott Lyons from the Norfolk branch of the National Union of Teachers also confirmed that the union had received no negative feedback from teachers about the new timetable.

This type of curriculum could potentially be extended to a wider number of schools, with education secretary Michael Gove expressing his support for longer opening hours last year.

Posted by Charlotte MichaelsADNFCR-2164-ID-801517372-ADNFCR
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