Wicklow school among first in the country to experiment with longer class times

Wicklow school among first in the country to experiment with longer class times
Colaiste Bhride in Carnew. Pic: Google Maps.

School children in Wicklow are among the first in the country trying a new style school day, with longer classes.

Colaiste Bhride in Carnew is moving to one hour sessions instead of the traditional half hour slots.

Principal Linda Dunne says it has cut down the time they waste between classes:

She said: "We actually had 35 and 40-minute classes, so when the bell went there was a scramble in corridors and a lot of time wasted perhaps going to the toilet on the way or having a chat on the way.

"Our school would be spread across a wide area as well, so getting from one part of the school to the other took at least five minutes if you dilly-dallied along the way."

It is part of the post-primary system moving from class slots of 35 to 40 minutes, to lengthier, hour-long, periods.

Schools were told by the Department of Education that, from this September, all classes had to be at least 40 minutes long.

However, the Department also suggested that schools may prefer longer class periods of 60 minutes.

The school, which trialled the 60-minute classes after teachers voted to try it last year, adopted them permanently this year.

Teachers explained to parents ahead of the trial that they were not getting as much done in classes as they had hoped, so wanted to see if they would get "the freedom to achieve plenty of learning in a class" which was longer.

At the end of the trial year, a survey of students, teachers and parents found that 88% of teachers, 95% of parents and 90% of students were happier with the new system.

The longer classes means fewer of them in a day, leading to lower stress levels for students who had six instead of 10 classes per day, and a corresponding drop in the amount of homework each day.

Ms Dunne told the Independent: "It used to be very frenetic around the school. Now we have two classes before break, two before lunch and two after lunch."

She stressed that at the start her staff were worried about fitting the curriculum into the time allocated, but their fears proved unfounded with teachers finding they were actually not "working against the clock of 35 to 40 minutes".

With the arrival of iPads in Coláiste Bhríde around six years ago they found that a lack of time was the biggest hurdle to active learning and the Principal said: "The students were learning by experiencing and collaborating; they needed more time."


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