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Why do we have a longer school day?

Why did we decide to have a longer day?

Mercia School opened in September 2018. The school is fully comprehensive and serves a large catchment area in south-west Sheffield. We serve a diverse group of pupils, with approximately 20% eligible for Free School Meals and 15% on the SEND register. We are a traditional, academically rigorous school with high ambitions and aspirations for all pupils.

We have a longer school day to drive social mobility. We strongly believe that the additional time supports the cultural and academic development of all pupils, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. More hours in school, with increased exposure to highly effective teaching and enrichment activities, helps all pupils to develop in to confident, well-rounded individuals.  Our longer school day is the most important tool we have in achieving social justice for our pupils and wider community.

With our longer day, pupils are able to access more than they might in other schools. Helpfully, they complete all of their school work during the day under the guidance of outstanding teachers. This limits the amount of work pupils need to do at home. During the day, we have increased opportunity to offer more intervention and support to pupils that need it, without disturbing curriculum lessons.

The longer day supports pupils’ health and wellbeing, whilst simultaneously developing their character. Pupils work hard in school hours, needing to show grit and determination, but then leave to enjoy their hobbies and family lives. During the day, they have to embrace hard work and tackle a challenging curriculum, but they then go home and rightly recharge. They are encouraged to separate home and school. This is essential for the physical and emotional wellbeing of teachers, so why not pupils?

A summary of the school day

The school opens at 07:30 for all pupils, with a formal start to the day at 08:20. The day ends at 17:00 Monday to Thursday, and 15:45 on a Friday. Throughout the longer day, there are more opportunities to provide an exceptional experience for our pupils. In the morning, all pupils are offered a breakfast so they can fuel for the day ahead. At 08:20, pupils attend Mastery Time (Form Time) where they all read for thirty minutes. Pupils at Mercia will read at least thirty expertly chosen books by the end of Year 11. After reading, pupils have three one-hour curriculum lessons during the morning session.

After Family lunch, pupils have a second Mastery Time where they access our Personal Development and Character Curriculum. The pupils then have two one-hour lessons. The day ends with high-quality enrichment or self-study sessions that are designed to help pupils remember key knowledge.

Impact?

The school is significantly oversubscribed, with strong competition for places. All pupils access exciting enrichment opportunities which are helping to develop their character. Pupils are exposed to high levels of challenge. The school’s annual attendance figures have always been significantly above national averages, showing that pupils enjoy school. Equally, the school’s exclusion rates are significantly below the national average. Relationships at Mercia are strong.

Pupils are especially happy because they receive excellent teaching. Staff absence rates are very low and staff turnover is exceptionally rare. We have never used a supply teacher at the school. The longer school day provides amazing opportunities for all. The additional time allows us to provide pastoral and academic support for pupils who may need it, especially disadvantaged pupils and those with SEND.

We would absolutely recommend that schools explore the virtues of longer days and consider it in their settings.