A charter for improvement

The Sutton Trust is calling today for changes to the conventional school day. Following research into the amount of homework and other extra curricular activities undertaken
by children of graduate parents compared with those from less educated
homes, the Trust has concluded that an extended school day, from 7:30 to 5pm, is seen as one important step in trying to reduce the attainment gap between socio-economic groups.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said:

"A conventional model of 9am to 3pm schooling is insufficient to tackle
such a deep-rooted problem; the mountain to climb is just too high.
That is why we are looking at radical approaches, such as KIPP schools
in the US
[Charter schools], which make up for deficits outside the school gates with
extended curriculum time, enrichment activities, the highest quality
teachers and a strong work ethic. All this is underpinned by the
expectation - universal amongst middle class families - that young
people will go on to university. We should not settle for anything less
for students from poorer homes."


As the Times reports today, the research commissioned by the trust found that children with parents
who were graduates spent on average twice as much time on their
homework as pupils with parents who had O levels: 18 minutes per
weekday and 21 minutes at weekends, compared with only 6 and 9 minutes.
They were also less likely to read for pleasure. A third of children (34 per cent) whose parents had little or no
formal education claimed to have had no homework set during the survey
period, compared with 10 per cent of pupils with graduate parents.

The Sutton Trust is now looking to put its ideas into practice, either under the Academy programme or the Conservatives 'Free Schools' policy. The new school will be modelled on an American Charter school, a taxpayer funded independent outfit that is free from many of the strictures that hold back conventional taxpayer funded schools. For more on Charter Schools, see here and here.

Dr Lee Elliott Major, director of research at the Sutton Trust, has also written of his experiences of US Charter schools in today's print version of the Times. It is terrific news that the Sutton Trust, consistently one of the best educational foundations in the UK, is throwing its weight behind the charter school model. We must try everything we can to close the gap between groups in society, make every school a brilliant school, in which the pupils can expect to get the level of education and extra-curricula activities that currently only the well off can afford.

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