Majority of parents vote against extending the school day in Milton Keynes
They would prefer the youngsters to catch up through extra curricular activities instead
Most parents do not want a compulsory extension of the school day so their children can catch up with learning they missed during the pandemic, a survey has shown.
But more than 65% of them say they would support extra-curricular activities out of school hours.
The survey was carried out by the Child Poverty Action Group and national charity Parentkind and it questioned mums, dads and carers from schools all over the country.
The move followed suggestions that government ministers are considering adding an extra 30 minutes to the school day as part of a new £15 billion Covid rescue strategy to help pupils catch up.
A large majority (79%) of parents surveyed said any extension of schooling for any purpose must be optional, not compulsory, while 56% were flatly against the extension.
The opposition was strongest among parents with children at secondary school, with 63% saying they didn't like the idea, compared to 52% of parents with primary school children.
But 65% of all parents said they would welcome more out of school hours extra-curricular activities such as sport, music, art and drama. They were especially keen to have more physical activities before or after school.
Among parents on means-tested benefits, three in five said extra-curricular provision before and after school would give their children access to opportunities that might otherwise be difficult for them to provide. Two in five said it would mean they or their partner could work or work more, while 70% said having to pay for activities would make it less likely their child could attend.
Many schools across England deliver services and activities that go beyond the core function of the school day – like breakfast clubs, homework clubs, sport and music lessons. But these are usually funded by charities and fundraising. As not every school has the money or capacity to do them, provision is patchy.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Parentkind are urging Government to boost its Covid-19 education recovery plan by providing schools with adequate funding to develop low or no-cost, before-and-after-school extra-curricular programmes to support pupils and families in their communities. This Autumn’s Spending Review must include dedicated funding for this purpose, the charities say.
Parentkind CEO John Jolly said: "As parents are a primary stakeholder in children's education, it's only right that policymakers take notice of their views. This past year and a half has seen the parental role in education increase dramatically, and many want it to stay that way.
"Parents are well-placed to know which education recovery options will work well for their child, and parent voice is clear on this issue. The majority want to see more extra-curricular activities that will help children's learning and the development of character and skills, but they will also provide all-important chances to socialise and have some much-needed fun.
"These opportunities are especially urgent for children from more disadvantaged families."
Head of CPAG’s Cost of the School Day programme Kate Anstey said: “Extra-curricular activities around the school day can boost children’s learning, development and well-being and help parents to work. It’s our responsibility to help children recover the ground they’ve lost to Covid-19 and to back parents trying to stay afloat. The time to invest in extending extra-curricular provision is now. To do less is to leave the life chances of the poorest children in jeopardy.”