Calls to lengthen school day and cut school holidays rejected by North Yorkshire education bosses

Classroom file pic.

Education bosses in North Yorkshire have rejected calls to lengthen schools days and cut school holidays to enable pupils to catch up following lockdowns.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive heard the authority was supporting a “tailored approach” that would see teachers’ assess young people’s needs and individual pupils being offered help.

The policy announcement was prompted by Swale division councillor Annabel Wilkinson questioning what the council was doing to help children catch up who had struggled during lockdowns.

While the government has given £1.7bn for catch-up support in England, earlier this month think tank The Education Policy Institute said some £13.5bn was needed to reverse the damage to pupils’ education caused by the pandemic.

It claimed pupils had lost up to two months of learning in reading, and up to three months in maths and called on the government to extend the school day.

The council’s executive member for education Councillor Patrick Mulligan told members the last year had been difficult for pupils not just in their academic attainment, but in terms of their social and emotional development.

He told the meeting: “With the government there’s been lots of murmurings about catch-up, cancelling school holidays and having longer school days. I would be very opposed to that sort of thing because young people’s education involves more than just academics. They need a break and the ability to get together and enjoy each other’s company and not feeling academic pressure on them all the time.

“Our children are very resilient and they will catch up over the course of the next year or two.”

Council director Stuart Carlton said some schools and some children would be taking part in catch-up activities, where needed, and that schools were being provided with extra money to support children who needed extra help.

Mr Carlton said schools were this term getting to understand individual pupils’ needs and would provide targeted support throughout the year “without worrying young people all the time that they have fallen behind”.

He said: “We need to do this gently and well, but schools are well positioned and there’s some extra support to help young people who need it.”