For thousands of parents across the state, their daily routines are dictated by the ebb and flow of their children’s schools. While most schools in the state operate from 9am until 3pm, those hours could be a thing of the past.
The NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has once again voiced his support for changes to the schooling timetable as part of a new review into the economics of gender in the workforce.
Empowering women and improving their economic opportunities is set to be the focus of the NSW Government’s Women’s Economic Opportunities Review and Expert Reference Panel, which will take into account the responsibilities of childcare, still largely seen as the role of women.
This is in spite of the fact that almost 70% of households with children in NSW have two parents who both work and live together, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Perrottet said the review will focus on supporting women to enter, re-enter and stay in the workforce, including through identifying opportunities to reduce salary and superannuation discrepancy and improve access to and affordability of childcare.
“The time has come to level the playing field, making sure more women have more choice and opportunities when it comes to their careers,” Perrottet said.
“We know there is more work to do to improve conditions for more women to succeed in the workplace and have greater choice in their lives. This review will help find ways to increase women’s leadership opportunities and enable flexibility for working parents.”
Treasurer Matt Kean said the 2021-22 NSW Intergenerational Report found the economy would be 8% larger by 2060-61 if women’s participation reached parity with men.
Part of this review includes the shake up of school hours, which Perrottet said are no longer appropriate for the current era.
“In my view, 9am until 3pm doesn’t work,” he said. “You’ve also got challenges with before and after school, you’ve got childcare issues and you’ve got early childhood education.”
However, NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos has dismissed the idea as a “throwaway statement,” saying that “the supervision of students is a by-product of schooling, it’s not the primary purpose.”
Twelve schools across the state will be involved in the trial, which is set to commence later this year. It has been in the works for a while but was pushed back because of the pandemic. All schools in the state are able to apply for the trial.
While no set hours have been put forward as of yet, the NSW government is looking for schools with “revolutionary ideas” that could help break down structural gender barriers. It’s thought that longer school days will be the focus of the trial, perhaps to align more with the typical workday.
The normal 9am – 3pm school day originated in the NSW Public Instruction Act of 1880 and while schools by and large set their own hours, most follow this pattern.
However, there are outliers, and it’s these schools that could be followed in making up the new trial. Merrylands East Public School in southwest Sydney, for example, operates on an 8am – 1:15pm schedule and has done for over a decade.
They changed the hours after a survey found that 72% of parents supported the change. While they offer the same amount of teaching as other schools, they skip the lunch break and seem to avoid the afternoon slump that most school children tend to experience.