Daventry school proposing to close early on Fridays to ease stress on its teachers

Ashby Fields Primary School
Ashby Fields Primary School

A Daventry primary school is proposing to close early on a Friday afternoon in order to help its teaching staff maintain a healthy work-life balance.

In a letter to parents, Ashby Fields Primary School announced the start of a public consultation into the idea, the results of which will be published in May.

Headteacher Jacqui Johnson and pupils from Ashby Fields Primary School, pictured in 2015.

Headteacher Jacqui Johnson and pupils from Ashby Fields Primary School, pictured in 2015.

Kelly Holmes, whose daughter attends Ashby Fields, said the suggestion did not take into consideration parents in work and argued that spaces at the school's on-site childcare centre - Orchards Wrap Around Care - were limited and cost money.

"What do they intend to do to accommodate working parents?" said Ms Holmes, who would have to take Friday afternoons off if the proposal is installed.

"They're offering Orchards Wrap Around Care but there's very limited space for that and you have to pay for it.

"They're making working parents pay for extra childcare and we will have to fight it out for places."

Ashby Fields is proposing to cut two hours from its current 27.5 hours a week timetable. The Department of Education recommends key stage one children receive 21 hours of lessons a week, and 23.5 hours for key stage two.

"Fourteen days our children are going to lose," said Ms Holmes.

"What are they going to do in terms of lesson plans? Will the children lose out on education?"

The school explained in the letter that recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers is a national problem that has "a direct, major impact on not only our children's education, but their well-being and confidence".

This is being caused by "the huge workload that ensures teachers work an average of 60 hours a week during term time and through their holidays to keep up", according to Ashby Fields.

"Many teachers, despite their love of frontline teaching, cannot manage this workload and maintain a healthy work-life balance, and subsequently resign," reads the letter.

To help redress this balance and offer teachers more time to develop a curriculum without burning out, Ashby Fields has suggested it closes to children at 1.15pm on a Friday afternoon during term time.

But Ms Holmes doesn't accept the school's reasoning behind the proposal.

"They [teachers] have the school holidays and bank holidays. They get more days off than working parents," she said.

A joint statement by the school's chair of governors, Paul Davies, and headteacher Jacqui Johnson states: "As part of the on-going commitment to continuous school improvement, the senior leadership team and governors of Ashby Fields Primary School have been discussing possible ways to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at the school to ensure we meet with needs of our pupils and invest in our staff.

"One possibility is to review the structure of the school week in relation to an earlier closure time on Friday and as a result access additional staff development time to enhance the quality of teaching and learning.

"As a result, the governors agreed to undertake an informal consultation to gather the opinions of parents before considering any next steps.

"The meeting on Wednesday, April 25 is to enable parents to voice their opinions and provide advice as well as emailing comments to the school.

"Governors are meeting on Thursday to review the feedback from parents and to consider if this option should be further developed as part of a formal proposal for the future.

"Should this proposal be seen as a favourable option then the Local Governing Board will take it to the InMat Trust Board for consideration."