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Extended school days should focus on play, socialisation and wellbeing of children, say educational psychologists

28 May 2021

Educational psychologists are urging the government to re-think the way it approaches the so-called ‘catch up’ programme for children in schools, with a focus on play, socialisation and wellbeing as opposed to just adding more hours of lessons to the timetable.

With an extended school day being suggested as part of the Covid recovery plan, members of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology are advocating for a holistic approach to learning within these hours, saying that this is an opportunity to re-set our priorities for our children and their education.

They are also highlighting the need for school to be the heart of the community, with the opportunity of longer school days providing safe spaces for children to play, socialise, and engage in activities such as music, crafts and sports.

Vivian Hill, vice-chair of the DECP said:

“If the school day is to be extended, it’s important is that we don’t just fill those extra hours with more and more formal teaching sessions. It is about developing a balanced offer and recognising that learning is a dynamic process. We urge the government to use this as an opportunity to re-set the approach we take to education and our children within schools.

“Children don’t have to be sat at desks in a classroom to learn, giving them space to play sports, paint, try different crafts, and socialise will all lead to learning and the development of important life skills.

“We have an opportunity now to re-think what we view as ‘good outcomes’ for children. By having schools as the centre of the community they can be used to help tackle social inequalities and give all children access to the resources and support they need. For example, for children who have no safe spaces to play outside at home, having access to the school playground to play football with their friends would be invaluable. For children living in overcrowded accommodation it could give them space to read and do their homework, or find their passion such as music or other forms of art.

“If we create the right environment for our children to thrive, then good academic achievement will be a by-product of this. These plans must be psychologically informed, and children must also be consulted on what they want and what they need to thrive. It is important as well that these services are properly resourced, we cannot expect teachers to just do more and more after an incredibly difficult 15 months.”


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