Students use lesson in writing letters “of complaint and persuasion” to tackle education minister Liz Truss on changes to school day

Wisbech Grammar School:  The photo shows Mrs Carolyn Fear with the class of pupils who sent the letter. Wisbech Grammar School: The photo shows Mrs Carolyn Fear with the class of pupils who sent the letter.

Thursday, March 13, 2014
4:05 PM

Wisbech students fearing changes to the school day used a lesson about writing letters “of complaint and persuasion” to tackle education minister Liz Truss.

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Ms Truss, parliamentary under secretary of state for education and childcare, has now replied – and the students are delighted.

Carolyn Fear, English teacher at Wisbech Grammar School, said her year eight class had been “in uproar about the issue and they felt very strongly about it.

“We are thrilled to receive the reply and what is particularly impressive is that the minister has clearly read the letters and it is a very personal response.”

In her reply Ms Truss acknowledged the concerns that the youngsters had addressed to education secretary Michael Gove.

Referring to comments made by Mr Gove in which he encouraged schools to think about making changes to the school day, Ms Truss said that she understood their worries that extending the school day and school year might leave them feeling tired and having less time to spend with their families.

She observed that the timing of the school day and year had not changed for a very long time and might not suit the needs of modern-day families in which parents went to work.

She said: “We want to make sure that children get the best education possible. Some schools already recognise the benefits of a longer school day and of changing the school year as well.”

However, she added that the government did not dictate to schools and the decision was a matter for school heads and governors.

She wrote: “The exact timing of the school day and school year is for your school’s head teacher to decide, in agreement with the governing body of your school.

“They need to set enough hours and days so that pupils learn well, as well as having time away from school to spend with their family and friends, complete homework and relax. We believe that good head teachers will know what suits their school best.”

Headmaster Mr Nicholas Hammond said that he was delighted with the quality of the letters that had been sent to the secretary of state for education as part of the school’s citizenship education programme.

He said: “It is reassuring that the schools’ minister took time to consider the points that were raised by our pupils regarding the structure of the school day and length of holidays and gave such a measured, personal response.

“It is great to have the support of senior political figures and will have inspired our pupils to continue to make a positive engagement with the national political debate.”

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