NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s plan to shake up modern day school hours is underway as eight schools across the state prepare to trial extended hours.

The Premier says the research pilot is a way to look at maximising the school day to better suit students and parents in 2022 and beyond.

After looking at research into current successful extended hours programs in schools, both locally and overseas Premier Dominic Perrottet’s plan will see participating schools partnering with local community organisations, businesses, and sporting clubs to offer activities for kids outside of the standard 9am-to-3pm school day.

“We know it can be a challenge for families juggling the competing demands of work and family life around standard school hours and this pilot is about exploring options to help with that,” Mr Perrottet said.

“We want to offer greater support and comfort to parents, knowing that their kids are safe and happy taking part in a homework club in the school library, a dance class in the school hall or soccer practice on the school oval.”

Cawdor Public School, Hanwood Public School, Hastings Secondary College, Kentlyn Public School, Matraville Soldier’s Settlement Public School, Orange High School, Spring Hill Public School and Tacking Point Public School are the first to take up the pilot plan.

The pilot will run for 20 weeks during terms three and four.

Parents react to school hours getting a shake up

Parents, teachers and students were informed that their world may be sent into a tailspin as plans to overhaul the traditional 9am-3pm school day were announced on in February.

“The school hours of nine till three, that was set up at a very different time in life … the world in the 1950s is very different from the world we live in today,” said NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet as he announced a women’s economic expert panel to guide government policies.

“We as a government will be looking always at better ways of doing things, of thinking outside the box and striking new directions moving forward.”

One of the alternatives includes a 7am to 1pm day, or extended after-school care.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says it’s time for school hours to adapt to life in 2022.

“When something’s been the same way for so long, decades upon decades … you can’t just overturn that overnight,” Perrottet said.

“You‘ve got so many elements; when you change the school hours you have to change the transport hours as well. It’s not going to be a one size fits all policy.”

A trial of longer school days has been proposed to begin in NSW later this year, with schools encouraged to apply to take part.

NSW’s Education Minister Sarah Mitchell agrees with the Premier’s suggestion that the school day should not be set in stone.

“Our society is constantly evolving, and it is vital we move with the changes particularly when it comes to education,” she said.

“The government is always looking at ways to improve lives for families, and additional flexibility in schools is something that will help.”

Who decided on 9-3?

To reflect on how we came to have the NSW school day as it looks now, we need to go right back to 1880 when, in May, The Public Instruction Act came into play.

Parents at the time were of the strong view that schools should be secular, proposing that “free, secular and compulsory” education be available to all.

The proposal that saw the Act come into play was that the state’s role in the provision of education should be paramount and that the role of the churches should not be encouraged by the continuance of state education aid.

This is an issue that all of these years later still divides communities, as parents argue that Scripture and the controversial Chaplaincy programme have no place in public education.

As for school hours, Section 128 of NSW’s Public Instruction Act stipulated that all students must assemble in the playground at 8:45am, to be ready for educational instruction in the classroom at 9am before being dismissed at 3:20pm.

The Act sets down a 10-minute recess break at 10:30am to be spent in the playground.

While some schools have since developed their own schedules, the 9-3 timeframe proposed in 1880 still bears true in most cases all of these years later.

What do parents say about the proposed trial?

We asked our Bounty Parents community what they thought of the proposal to overhaul school hours and for the most part the response was a plea to not change something that isn’t broken.

“No way!” said one mum. “My son wakes up at 7am and how would I hold a job with those hours as a single mum with no support?! What a joke!”

While another penned:  “No, no, no. Kids need their sleep. They need time to prepare for school in the mornings and not be rushed. They also need time with their parents before and after school. The current 9-3 provides those things.”

“This is a blow to single parents.” shared another. “More hours for the child away from home in order for a single parent to work and keep a job. No thank you.”

“As a working parent, I already have enough mum guilt about my kids going to after school care for a couple of hours”.

“This would be brilliant!”

One commenter who supported the idea was this responder who wrote: “I would support a 7-1pm for primary school similar to what they do in Italy,” before adding: “Work hours would also need to be addressed.”

While this parent was keen to try something new, saying: “A lot of families (trades industry/factory work etc) start work early, so looking at alternate options is a great option. Whats the harm in trying?” Adding: “It’s actually nice for the govt to think of other workers for once that aren’t 9-5ers.”

“This would be brilliant!” shared another commenter who added the caveat that “the working day/structure” would also need to be addressed. “What would be the point of 7am to 1pm and then children being in care until 6pm? Making it harder for parents essentially?”

What do you think of the proposal? How would school hour changes impact your family?