Nadhim Zahawi grilled by Stayt over 'rehashed' education policy
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Nadhim Zahawi, 54, told the Commons Education Select Committee there are some “excellent examples” of schools that introduced longer teaching hours and suggested other institutions should increase their school day to 6.5hours. The Committee’s chair, Harlow MP Robert Halfon, 52, asked his Conservative colleague to make the case in favour of increasing school hours.
Mr Halfon said: “We know from the Education Policy Institute that it increases educational attainment from two to three months, especially amongst disadvantaged pupils.
“We know that a longer school day, according to the department for culture, media, sports, increases numeracy by 29 percent.
“So, this increases educational attainment.”
“Will he at least consider some pilot schemes in disadvantaged areas around the country where we can have a longer school day?”
Mr Zahawi, who replaced Gavin Williamson in the Education Department following the Prime Minister’s September reshuffle, responded by saying: “I think the priority has to be for those children and students, who have the least time available to them to recover, which is why the £800 million for the 16 to 19-year-olds additional 40 hours of education is so important.
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“Plus the £1 billion going into secondary and primary, making the total £5 billion of recovery money.
“There are some excellent examples… of a longer school day which I’m going to look at.
“The average school day now is 6.5 hours and I would like to see everybody move towards that average.”
However, Mr Zahawi’s comments have been criticised by a leading education union.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “The gains that might be possible through extending the school day must be weighed against the costs of such a strategy, including the impact on pupils’ mental health, reduced family time and less time for extracurricular activities.
“Children’s happiness and wellbeing should be prioritised as well as their education.”
The MailOnline reports Dr Suzanne Cogswell, a research associate at the University of Kent, as saying: “The proposal of playing catch-up with longer school days and shorter school holidays may not be without its own set of problems for both pupils and teachers.
“Forty percent of teachers are already carrying out over 21 extra hours of school-related work each week during their evenings and weekends.
“The consequence of this is that teachers are experiencing the highest level of work-related stress in the UK.”
Despite concerns, the Stratford-upon-Avon MP also criticised so-called anti-vaxxers.
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Mr Zahawi, who was the Government’s successful vaccine minister before his promotion to Education Secretary, also said: “There is no place for anti-vaxxers harassing or coming anywhere near school leaders.”
According to the MailOnline, the Education Secretary also told the Commons: “As we have done throughout the vaccination programme, we’ve operated by taking the advice of the chief medical officers and we moved swiftly the moment that advice was made available to vaccinate 12 to 15-year-olds.
“Through the holiday period that was expanded to out-of-school vaccination and now that they are returning back into school that continues at pace.
“There has been some dangerous behaviour from anti-vaxxers.
“There is no place for anti-vaxxers harassing or coming anywhere near school leaders and I have the reassurance of the Home Secretary that she’ll make any resources available that the sector needs to make sure those people in our schools are protected and are able to get on with the job of teaching children and protecting them.”
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