An asymmetric school week includes a combination of longer and shorter days with coordinated pupil free time. The most common structure is four longer days and a short half day. This does not necessarily result in a change in the total hours of instructional time. The Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) brought together a group of stakeholders to examine the benefits and potential drawbacks associated with adopting asymmetric school weeks.
There are three main reasons for adopting an asymmetric school week: creating dedicated time for extracurricular activities for children; improved opportunities for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of teachers; and opportunities for financial savings.
The most commonly raised concerns include: whether families are able to access additional high-quality childcare on the shorter days; the impact of the length of the school day (e.g. increased truancy on shorter days, or longer days making pupils over-tired); transport availability; and unequal opportunity to engage in extracurricular activities (e.g. due to reliance on school transport).
The evidence base about the impacts of asymmetric school week schedules is limited. Experts suggested that a change in the structure of the school week might enable more opportunities for CPD or extracurricular activities, but that it would be important to ensure that parents, families and school leadership and culture are supportive of the change and its objectives.
The report summarises the key messages from our rapid evidence review and an expert workshop held in May 2016 attended by academic experts, practitioners and representatives from Parents Want A Say, Unions, Governors Wales, the WLGA and Welsh Government.