Wouldn’t it be nice to have a whole day of planning time, marking time, and meeting time…every single week? And I’m not talking about on the weekend! I’m talking about a 4-day school week.
In the US, the popularity of a shorter school week has increased over the past decade. Now, over 560 districts across 25 states have at least one school running a 4-day week! And the number is growing. Over in the UK, over 200 schools are following the trend, or actively consulting on it.
Over in America, a 4-day school week started out as a way of managing costs in smaller, rural districts. That is to say that less teaching days meant budgets could be reduced. As the idea spread across the country, the reasons behind this change shifted to be more student- and teacher- focused. One thing is for certain though – regardless of a school’s motivation, the debate over whether it is best for children, teachers, and schools is still a hot topic.
It certainly gives you something to ponder!
The idea of a shortened teaching week is enticing to many teachers for a range of reasons. So, what’s the deal? How does it affect teachers, schools and student outcomes? Could it work outside of America? And what, if any, are the downsides?
Some Facts About the 4-Day School Week
We’ve all been there…the struggle to get through Friday – for both teachers and students! Energy all gone, motivation levels low and you’re often left watching the clock as it ticks down towards bell time. So, wouldn’t a shorter school week solve everyone’s problems? Let’s look at some facts…
Firstly, let’s make it clear – a shorter school week does not mean less teaching. There is still governmental legislation that decrees minimal instructional time requirements. Whether in days or hours, those requirements must be met – this means that, though you may only be at school for 4 days out of 5, those days must be longer to provide the same amount of instructional time.
So, each school day would be longer – an average of eight hours each day instead of six, either Monday to Thursday, or Tuesday to Friday.
Secondly, not every school can just ditch the Monday to Friday routine.
In the United States, each school determines its hours to suit the local needs of the community and to meet legislation requirements. Most states require approximately 180 school days a year. Some states, however, have an equivalent number of school hours that must be met. Because of this, only some states allow the possibility of a 4-day school week. In others, this new schedule would violate time requirements. The situation is similar in Australia, with every state having its own legislation on time requirements.
Pros and Cons of the 4-Day School Week
Regardless of whether a 4-day school week is a possibility for your school or not, there are many points to consider when deciding if it’s something you’d really be interested in or not.
I’m sure I don’t have to say much to convince you of the positives of cutting down to a 4-day teaching load! For many teachers, the idea of a whole day without interruption to plan, mark, take professional development and have faculty meetings sounds incredibly appealing – and if it was once a week then even better!
Aside from this perk, the 4-day school week may offer many other benefits to students and teachers alike:
- Improved mental health – More non-contact time could result in more time for self-care and relaxation.
- Reduction in financial costs for schools – Fewer school days mean fewer costs associated with electricity, groundskeeping, and support workers such as cafeteria staff and bus drivers.
- Increased attendance – the transition to 4 days has been proven to increase student attendance, in some schools by up to 20% in a two year period.
- More time for extra-curricular pursuits – An extra school-free day enables students to spend valuable time exploring their interests outside of the classroom.
- Improved student-wellbeing – A shortened teaching week could also give students downtime to recover from the stress of school.
- Improved student outcomes – Students who struggle academically could have more time for study and tutoring. As well as this, students might be better rested in general, which may help their focus and concentration at school.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, unfortunately. In case you haven’t already gotten a glimpse into some negative side-effects of the aforementioned points, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Longer school hours for students – This is especially important in the younger years, where concentration levels and focus can only last so long!
- Difficulties for families who work full time – Having to take care of their children on a Friday isn’t possible for a lot of families who work full time. This could mean an increase in costs associated with outside school hours care, babysitting, or other activities.
- Less time at school for students who may need it – I’m not talking about tutoring time, I’m talking about those students who get more out of school than just learning. Those students who have difficult home lives and look to school as an escape, a comforting word, or a hot meal. Those are the students who need 5 school days.
- Reduction in wages for support staff – The staff who work in the libraries, cafeterias and on the school grounds to support the teachers and students would suffer if their workload was cut down by a whole day.
- Difficulties juggling work/homelife 4 days a week – Coordinating work hours and school hours can be a juggle. This can be especially difficult for teacher parents whose working hours need to match with the needs of their children.
Where Does That Leave Us?
These are just a few of the positives and negatives associated with a 4-day school week. There are a hundred other intricacies associated with the drastic change of cutting down teaching days. What is for sure, is that the growing popularity in this trend means it has sparked a debate which will last for years to come. So, will it be coming to a school near you? Only time will tell…
What are your thoughts on a 4-Day school week?
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