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Changing the length of the school day
Read the rules on setting and changing the school day for maintained schools and academies. Get advice on how to consult on the changes, and see examples of other schools' consultations.
Whose responsibility is it?
In maintained schools, the governing board is responsible for setting the length of the school day. You can set the school day as you see fit, as long as every school day has two sessions divided by a break. This is set out in Department for Education guidance on school attendance (page 15).
Academies should check their funding agreements to see who is responsible, and whether there are any restrictions.
There's no formal process
There's no specific process you need to follow if you want to alter your school day. You don't need to notify the DfE or hold a formal consultation. The DfE confirmed this to us.
- The headteacher draws up plans to change the school day
- The headteacher presents the plans to governors, who discuss and scrutinise them
- The school consults with parents and other stakeholders
- The headteacher or other senior leader analyses the responses, and presents them to the governing board
- The board considers the responses, and decides whether to go ahead with the proposed changes
It's a good idea to consult relevant parties
It's helpful to consult with parents on any changes to the school day (see the DfE guidance). Changing the school day could alter their childcare or working arrangements, and consulting shows you're being considerate of their needs.
The principal education welfare officer at Haringey Council recommended that you consult parents and explain the proposed changes and the reasoning behind them.
Think about who else might be affected by changes you make to the school day. It's a good idea to give them a chance to contribute to your plans. For example, you could talk to:
- The local authority
- Bus companies used to transport pupils to school
- Nearby schools that pupils’ siblings may attend
- Staff who run before and after school clubs
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) recommended this to us.
Give half a term's notice
Give parents a minimum of half a term’s notice before adjusting the timing of the school day. This will give them enough time to discuss it with you if they wish, and sort out childcare or working arrangements if necessary.
This was also recommended by ASCL.
Consultation template and example
A good way of consulting is to send a letter setting out:
- Your proposed new timings for the school day
- How your new times differ from the timing of your current school day
- Why you want to make the changes
- Where and how parents can send in their comments
Usually this letter is sent by the headteacher, but could be from governors if you prefer.
Jane Edminson, one of our associate education experts, suggested this.
Use our template letter:
Secondary academy in Cumbria
Workington Academy ran a consultation for parents and carers on changing the finish time of the school day. Its letter explains:
- The day will end at 3pm, rather than 3:15pm
- The time gained each week will be used for "staff training and to support school improvement plans"
- School bus times will be adjusted accordingly
Jane Edminson is a national leader of governance and a governor support officer for a local authority.
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