Extending school hours ‘could stop young people stabbing each other’, Tory MP claims

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Gate of a residential building painted in black.
Conservative MP Robert Halfon wants to extend school days. (Getty)

A Tory MP has suggested extending school hours could prevent knife crime among young people and save lives.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, made a plea to extend the school day.

Writing in the Sun newspaper in support of the proposal, Halfon said half of all knife crime in England occurs after classes end between 4pm and 6pm.

“Imagine the bloodshed that could be spared if these youngsters were at school instead," he wrote.

Robert Halfon MP speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Picture date: Tuesday October 5, 2021. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
Chairman of the education select committee Robert Halfon (Getty)

In a 2019 Ofsted report called ‘Safeguarding children and young people in education from knife crime’, it said the "most dangerous time for children is shortly after school, between 4pm and 6pm".

According to a report in the Guardian in 2018, 22% of stabbing victims under the age of 16 treated by the Royal London hospital were attacked between 4pm and 6pm on weekdays.

Halfon, Tory MP for Harlow, suggested extended school hours should be rolled out in deprived areas first to help less well-off youngsters.

He argued days were too short for millions of poorer pupils and stopped them from reaching their full potential.

Halfon said at elite and private schools, children were not “packed off home” at 3.15pm every day and instead, they were given sport and music activities to do.

He added extended school days would also help pupils catch up on studies after they were interrupted by the COVID lockdowns.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Halfon asked new Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to continue to make a case for a longer school day.

He said: “We know from the Education Policy Institute that it increases educational attainment from two to three months, especially amongst disadvantaged pupils.

“We know that a longer school day, according to the department for culture, media, sports, increases numeracy by 29%. So, this increases educational attainment.

“Will he at least consider some pilot schemes in disadvantaged areas around the country where we can have a longer school day?”

Zahawi told MPs there are some “excellent examples” he would examine.

Britain's Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi leaves Downing Street after attending a cabinet meeting in central London on October 27, 2021 before the government's annual budget announcement. - Britain will unveil its latest budget, looking to fix the public finances after emergency pandemic support sent debt rocketing. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi. (Getty)

On Wednesday, the Education Select Committee questioned Zahawi over whether the Department for Education (DfE) plans to lengthen the school day to help pupils catch up on lessons following school closures.

He said: “What the chair is asking about is ‘are we going to have a longer school day?’. No, we’re not on the whole. 

"We’re saying we’ve got targeted funds to deliver.”

Last week, the government announced it would provide an extra £1.8 billion to help children recover learning lost during the pandemic, bringing total catch-up funding so far to £4.9 billion.

A bill from Halfon also aims to redefine schools as “essential infrastructure” to protect millions of pupils from future shutdowns due to COVID.

Zahawi told MPs he would look at Halfon’s Bill, adding“This is not a snowflake generation. They were really resilient, but actually keeping schools open has to be my priority.”

Watch: Education Secretary vows to tackle absenteeism

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