Last week, Queensland’s Education Department provided its schools with guidelines to change class hours from Term 1, 2024, giving them the option of implementing a four-day week for students.
The move followed the introduction of the ‘Making Changes to School Hours procedure’, which allows administrators to consider “flexible arrangements” in public schools across the state.
While the option for flexibility with school hours has been in place and used for many years, the updated policy will ensure a consistent approach when schools are contemplating changes to their operating hours.
How it will work
Any proposed change must occur in consultation with the school community including parents, staff and students and be approved by a regional director.
Where the changed school hours mean that the scheduled school day starts later than 9:00am or finishes earlier than 3:00pm, the principal must ensure that appropriate supervision is provided for students who are at school before the scheduled day starts (from at least 9:00am) or after the scheduled day finishes (until at least 3:00pm or in line with school transport services).
The Department also provides support to schools to ensure any outside-school issues are considered.
‘Not a green light for a four-day week’
A spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Education pointed out that the option for flexibility with school hours has been in place and used for many years and that the existing policy was updated “to ensure a consistent approach” when schools are contemplating changes to school hours.
“It is expected that all Queensland state schools continue to operate for five days a week and the new policy does not give schools a green light to implement a four-day week,” the spokesperson told The Educator.
The spokesperson said the Department of Education will provide approval prior to any school commencing consultation on changes to school hours and review the outcome of consultation prior to considering the approval for a trial of modified school hours.
“Consultation will take into account a range of factors with the overwhelming focus of ensuring students are actively engaged in learning for the whole school week,” the spokesperson said.
“Changes can only occur where the school community determines it provides benefits for students and families.”
Following a trail, schools will analyse the outcomes of the trial including impacts on student learning and wellbeing, the operations of the school and community feedback to determine if any change becomes permanent. Schools will then be required to review the change every two years.
Changes will bring certainty and consistency
Mark Breckenridge, president of the Queensland Secondary Principals Association, said members welcome the certainty and consistency of process that the procedure provides.
“Coming out of COVID-19 and considering the range of learning opportunities available to secondary schools e.g in school, TAFE, university, it is likely that more schools will consider innovative practices that include flexible approaches to the delivery of teaching and learning” Breckenridge told The Educator.
“At the forefront of any decision on introducing flexible hours will be two central tenets: will this provide greater opportunities and improve outcomes for students?”