'We haven't waited to act': Newham primary schools extend days to help pupils catch up after pandemic

A woman standing with her hands on the back of a chair in front of bookshelves.

Keri Edge, executive headteacher of Hallsville Primary School and Scott Wilkie Primary School. - Credit: Tom Barnes

Two primaries have extended their school days by an extra hour to help pupils catch up on learning after the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Hallsville and Scott Wilkie primary schools, in Canning Town and Custom House respectively, have added an extra half hour at the beginning and at the end of each weekday, meaning pupils will study for longer than at most secondary schools.

Executive headteacher of both schools, Keri Edge, said she took action after discovering how far some pupils had fallen behind during lockdowns, with the Year 6s needing additional support to be ready for secondary school.

She said: “Without the extra support our children may not have all the necessary skills that they need to be secondary ready.

“We have had tremendous support from our parents.

“They understand that this extra hour will make the difference later in their education.”

The schools, which are part of the Agate Momentum Trust, say the vast majority of parents have agreed to the extra tuition.

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Both schools ran live lessons for three hours every day while schools were closed during the pandemic, with staff calling pupils’ homes if they didn’t log on. 

Mrs Edge said: “Closing the attainment gap is our key priority. 

“Many children were already at a disadvantage prior to schools closing, then you add into the mix the pandemic, which - despite what has been said - has not been a level playing field. 

“At my schools, it is not acceptable to let our children move to secondary without the skills they need to succeed.”

The schools have taken action ahead of the government announcing budget plans in its comprehensive spending review on Wednesday, October 27. 

The education budget is expected to include funding to help schools stay open from 8am to 6pm each weekday and possibly on Saturdays to make up for lost teaching time during the pandemic.

Mrs Edge said: “The government plans are absolutely right and correct but they need to have started months ago.

“We have not waited to act.

"Our children’s futures are too important.”