A TRIAL to extend the school day in Wales has started, the Welsh Government has said.

Education minister Jeremy Miles said 13 primary and secondary schools and one college will take part in a pilot scheme – adding an extra five hours a week for groups of pupils.

A total of 1,800 children will have a longer day for 10 weeks and take part in sessions such as art, music and sport, as well as academic lessons.

The trial is focused on supporting disadvantaged pupils and schools affected during the pandemic and is part of the Welsh Government’s Co-Operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru.

The results of the trial and the next steps will be considered with Plaid Cymru as part of the Co-Operation Agreement, the Welsh Government said.

Mr Miles said: “We know from research that young people can gain in confidence and wellbeing from this approach, especially disadvantaged learners.

“Programmes which provide enriching and stimulating additional sessions and support learners to re-engage with learning can have a greater impact on attainment than those that are solely academic in focus.

“The trial is a great opportunity to gather further evidence on how we use and structure time at school and how that might evolve in the future. We will be learning how these additional sessions might improve well-being, academic progression and increased social and cultural capital.

“As we move forward, we will continue to support schools with even stronger community engagement so that we deliver on our mission to tackle the impact of poverty on educational attainment and achieve high standards for all.”

READ MORE: Changes to school day in Wales trialled - including five extra hours per week

Laura Doel, director of education trade union NAHT Cymru, said it had not been provided with any evidence to support extending the school day.

“There may be some educational benefits to reforming the school year and we are open to discussions on what those benefits may be,” she said.

“All the focus from the Welsh Government has been on the school day fitting in with family life and working patterns, with no mention of the education benefit to learners.

“All the evidence available suggests that there is little or no data that supports keeping learners in school for longer because longer periods in school does not increase a child’s capacity to learn.

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“If the Welsh Government’s plan is to support working families with a national childcare offer, then they should come out and say that.

“Schools are not childcare providers and our profession of dedicated school leaders, teachers and support staff should not be expected to take on additional work and responsibility to do this.

“We urge the Welsh Government to be honest and clear with the profession about the motivation behind reforming the school day.

“If it is about childcare, then they need to direct that conversation with those who work in that field and allow school leaders to focus on their core business of teaching and learning.”

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