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Some schools are being pressurised to change their session times, often because of OFSTED's "norms" and comparison with other schools. Sometimes, members will wish to object or make observations on proposals to change.

Schools cannot change their sessions times without consultation and without following the procedure below. Please note the procedures and contact the Union if you or other members are not happy with the proposals for your school. Note also that the procedures apply to changes to the lunch break even if the start and end of the day remain unaltered.

The following procedure, set out in the Session Times (England) Regulations 1999, must operate when the governing body of any community, voluntary controlled or community special school proposes to make changes to the time of school sessions.

The school day is divided into two sessions, morning and afternoon. The procedures set out below apply to proposals to change the start or finishing time of the school day. The procedures apply also to proposals to change the lunch break by altering the length of the morning session or the beginning of the afternoon session. The relevant regulations are reproduced below.

Regulation 2

(1) Where the governors propose to make any change in those times, they must:

(a) consult the local education authority, the headteacher and all teaching and non-teaching staff employed in the school before taking any of the actions mentioned in sub-paragraphs (b) to (h) below;

(b) prepare a statement:

(i) indicating that they propose to make a change in those times;

(ii) specifying the proposed change and when they propose that it should take effect;

(iii) drawing attention to any comment on the proposal included as an annex to the statement by virtue of sub-paragraph (c) below and including such response to the comment as they may consider appropriate; and

(iv) giving details of the date, time and place of the meeting which they are required to hold by virtue of sub-paragraph (f) below;

(c) if so required by the local education authority, include as an annex to that statement such written comment on the proposal as the authority may provide for that purpose;

(d) produce that statement and any annex in such language or languages (in addition to English), if any, as they consider appropriate or as the local education authority may direct;

(e) take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure:

(i) that the parents of all registered pupils at the school and all persons employed at the school are given (free of charge) a copy of the statement and any annex not less than two weeks before the meeting which the governing body are required to hold by virtue of sub-paragraph (f) below; and

(ii) that copies of the statement and any annex are available for inspection (at all reasonable times and free of charge) at the school during the two week period immediately preceding that meeting;

(f) provide an opportunity for discussion of the proposal at a meeting which is open to:

(i) all parents of registered pupils at the school;

(ii) the headteacher; and

(iii) such other persons as the governing body may invite; consider any comments made at the meeting on the proposal before determining whether any change in those times should be made and (if so) whether the proposal should be implemented with or without any modification: and

(h) except where paragraph 2 below applies, not less six weeks before any change in those times is to take effect: inform the local education authority of the change and of when it is to take effect; and take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that the parents of all registered pupils at the school are so informed.

(2) Where the proposal concerns the times at which a school session is to begin in the morning or end in the afternoon (or both, as the case may be) the period referred to in paragraph 1(h) above shall not be less than three months.

Regulation 3

No change in the times of a school session shall be made as to take effect: (a) where paragraph 2 above applies, otherwise than at the beginning of a school year;

(b) in all other cases, otherwise than at the beginning of a school term.

DfEE Circular 7/90 sets out the following suggested minimum weekly teaching times as a guide for schools:

Age 5-7 21 hours
Age 8-11 23.5 hours
Age 12-16 24 hours

The above guidance does not outline the standard minimum hours to be operated by schools. It stands as non-statutory guidance and has advisory status only. In addition, there may be attempts to increase the length of school sessions to accommodate new developments in the National Curriculum, such as the introduction of Citizenship either as guidelines at Key Stages 1 and 2 or as a requirement at Key Stages 3 and 4.

These proposals have not as yet altered the status of DfEE guidance to schools on the length of session times. It is NUT policy to oppose the lengthening of sessions to accommodate such initiatives. Further advice will be issued and circulated if any such development takes place.

The provisions of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document, entitling classroom teachers to "a break of reasonable length between schools sessions", remain unaltered. Where NUT members in a school object to and seek advice about proposals to increase the length of school sessions, including any proposals which would reduce their lunch break entitlement, they should contact the Division Secretary.

The Division Secretary will wish to check whether the above procedures have been followed. Where there has been an apparent failure to follow the procedures required by the Regulations, the Union can challenge the headteacher and governing body and seek withdrawal of the proposed changes until such time as the procedures have been followed. Where necessary, the LEA should also be informed and asked to intervene (note also that the LEA does have an advisory role).

Where this approach does not succeed, the NUT Regional Office will consider, in consultation with the Division and members at the school, the appropriate means of maintaining this challenge, which might include formal legal moves. Where the objections involve opposition to proposals for which the required procedures have in fact been followed, the Union may still wish to consider an appropriate response in defence of members.


Published by Suffolk NUT from an original Circular from NUT Headquarters, 8 December 1999