• Nick Smith

Education Minister Nick Smith today released the final report of the Working Party that reviewed the length of the school day and the school year saying the recommendations would benefit students by giving greater certainty about the hours of teaching to which they are entitled.

"This is a good report. It correctly focuses on quality as well as quantity of teaching. It proposes very clear definitions about what makes up instructional time and will remove any uncertainty around teacher only days, prize givings and parent-teacher interviews being included. The shift to defining learning time by hours rather than by the archaic half-day system is common sense. The recommendation that the primary and secondary school years be aligned will be welcomed by parents and will remove the waste of hundreds of school buses driving around half empty in December. I also welcome the endorsement of the current four term year."

The report's main recommendations are:

* That there be a common length of school year for primary and secondary students with a four-year term.

* That all schools should be open for 200 days a year, and that they should be 'open for instruction' for 190 days with provision for ten days for years 11 to 13 (form 5-7) for examinations.

* That the entitlement for instruction be 760 hours per year (4 hours per day) for years 1 and 2 and 950 hours per year, 5 hours per day, for years 3-13.

* 'Open for instruction' be defined as 'instructional time when the primary focus of learning is the seven essential learning areas, the eight essential skills and the values which underpin them' and exclude administration time, break times, and non-instructional activities.

"The report also raises important questions about teacher workload, and teacher contact time. The government is keen to work with teacher representatives on these questions to ensure that the instructional time is of the highest possible standard. An important issue to address will be the workload questions around extra-curricula school activities."

"I will be giving the issues raised in the report very careful consideration. The Working Party has given the Government a great deal of very useful information, some of which will I am sure feed back into the regulatory review which is currently taking place. The recommendations would require legislative change and be implemented in 2001 at the earliest. I want to put on record my thanks to the Working Party, and in particular Margaret Austin who led the group, for the contribution they have made to this important task."