The traditional school hours of 9am to 3pm is set for a shake-up as the NSW government commences trials for an earlier start to the school day.
As reported by SMH, the government is encouraging principals and schools to formulate a new schedule for students, that may involve classes starting at 7am and finishing at 1pm. There’s also talk of a ‘second shift’, that is, arranging a later start and later finish for students to better align with a working family’s schedule.
It’s all in an effort to boost student productivity and allow for more flexibility for parents, many of which struggle to arrange for the 3pm pick-up with full-time work hours. But the government is also seeing the potential for this change to help cut costs.
For example, staggering the school drop-off and pick-up times could reduce traffic congestion, which the government predicts will cost $13.1 billion by 2031. That’s certainly an upside, in theory, but having four school zone windows in a day would quite likely add to everyone’s commute, and at unpredictable times too.
Apparently, schools will have the option of taking part in the trials, provided they can work out a solid plan for before and after school care and ensure all staff can and are willing to work around the prospect of an earlier start and potentially longer hours. The government will provide funding to help launch these trials.
It’s not impossible, of course, and in fact, some schools are already operating in this way. Merrylands East Public runs classes from 8am to 1.15pm. Students at the school have a 30-minute recess break mid-morning and no lunch, and receive just as many hours of schooling as students taking part in 9am to 3pm school days.
While parents are already showing enthusiasm for the new schedule, some teachers, on the other hand, are noting some logistical concerns.
“It could be great in terms of organisation for parents because they’ll be able to avoid peak hour traffic and then can get to their jobs on time, however, schools will need more after-hours care if the school day ends at 1:30pm,” one anonymous primary school teacher tells The Latch.
Another teacher, Alexander, tells us he’s in favour of the proposed arrangement, saying: “Many teachers are at work at 7am anyway, so this schedule would mean more time after the students finish to plan for the next day.”
He continues: “Young students tend to be more focused in the mornings, so I can see how this schedule would be more productive. I can’t speak for teachers with their own kids though.”
Another aspect the plan doesn’t consider is casual or substitute teachers. As our anonymous source explains: “Casual teachers currently get contacted at about 6.30am for an 8.30am start, so hypothetically, if we have a 7:30am start day, does that mean casuals need to be notified at 5.30am? It feels very early.
“I can see the pros and cons but each school will have to work closely with its staff and communities to figure out what works best for them.”