Flexible school hours get big tick

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:58 17/06/2014

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Nelson schools say they would welcome the opportunity to set their own hours and school holiday periods to work with their own needs.

Education Minister Hekia Parata commissioned a taskforce report which she received last week that looked at the regulations around school timing and hours.

While she has not released the findings of the report, she has said she is "very interested" in how the Government would give flexibility to schools to make choices that would work with their own communities.

The taskforce was established to consider how improved legislation and regulation could contribute to raising student achievement.

The report looked at whether the rules that set the length of the school day and the timing of school holidays were too restrictive. It was part of the Government's confidence and supply arrangement between the National and ACT parties.

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Tuia Te Matangi principal Merita Waitoa-Paki said she would welcome the opportunity to try opening the school at different hours to those already set.

"We could try and start at 10am and go through to 4pm. That would give parents time to come and have breakfast club here."

She said schools had different cultures and that the status quo did not work for everyone.

"It's great that the ministry is finally looking at them [changing hours]."

Birchwood School principal Chris Herrick said he thought school hours worked well as they were, but consulting the sector on them was a "brilliant idea".

He said he would be open to changing school holiday periods especially over summer.

Hira School principal Tonnie Uiterwijk said he had been discussing ideas with his staff on changing the school day.

"We were thinking that even lengthening our school day by 15 minutes, if you do that over 40 weeks that ends up with two full weeks."

He said if they used those 15 minutes each day for reading, the impact that would have on the students and their vocabulary would add up.

The school currently opened at 8.30am and finished for the day at 2.30pm. Uiterwijk said the extra 15 minutes would work well for some parents.

He said he would like to see a short holiday around Christmas and then a longer summer holiday in February.

Waimea College principal Larry Ching also said he would welcome flexible hours. He said there were a raft of reasons why it would work, though there were counter-arguments too. He particularly wanted to see primary, intermediate and secondary schools align school holidays which could be better for families.

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Ching had previously been on sabbatical in Canada. A school he visited extended its hours four days a week in order to give its students a fifth day off. This allowed staff time for professional development.

He said he would also be open to summer schooling, where struggling students could take extra classes.

- The Nelson Mail

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