Why a London headteacher is introducing a 12-hour school day

Andrew O'Neill, headteacher of All Saints Catholic College Andrew O’Neill, headteacher of All Saints Catholic College

A west London school headteacher has introduced a 12-hour school day trial this week in a bid to tackle smartphone addiction.

All Saints Catholic College near Ladbroke Grove, in North Kensington, is running a 10-week voluntary pilot scheme to help offer students a low-cost private school experience.

As part of the trial students in years seven and eight will be offered to attend a 7am breakfast club with the option to stay at school till 7pm, keeping their phones in their lockers and bags throughout the day.

Headteacher Andrew O’Neill says the pilot is “not compulsory” and students taking part do not need to attend school for the full extended day.

A note on the school’s website says children will be offered maths and English tuition, followed by activities including sports, drama and cooking, as well as a “family-style dinner” as part of the extended school provision.

The pilot will cost parents £10 a week per pupil and is being supported by Kensington and Chelsea Council, alongside educational charities West London Zone and Oracy.

Andrew O'Neill, headteacher of All Saints Catholic College Andrew O'Neill, headteacher of All Saints Catholic College Andrew O’Neill, headteacher of All Saints Catholic College

Why is the school introducing this scheme?

Mr O’Neill, who won Headteacher of the Year in 2022, told the Times he hopes the scheme will help to reverse a “100% addiction” among children to their smartphones, which he says is creating an anxious and apathetic generation.

Mr O’Neill said students were at risk of online crime, with a number falling victim to cyberbullying and blackmail.

“We have a long-term issue we need to solve,’ Mr O’Neill told the Times. “If we don’t we will have a generational problem with workplaces and society.

“Some children are so apathetic. They don’t care about anything. They are buried in their phones.”

Mr O’Neill told the BBC’s Today programme that he wanted to create a private school experience for students during the trial.

“A feature of that is receiving at the end of the school day time to complete homework or do prep, as it’s called, and another aspect is playing sport and participating in fun activities,” he said.

“That’s exactly what we’re offering in the state system at a pretty much low cost to families.”

He said the school has many disadvantaged students and “the context in which we are working is really challenging – but our families are really aspirational and value the education that we offer”.

He added that the scheme would only last for 10 weeks as “we wouldn’t be able to afford it for the whole school year”.

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A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We published guidance earlier this year prohibiting the use of mobile phones throughout the school day, including at break times.

“Our guidance backs headteachers to create safe and calm environments free from distraction so all pupils can receive the education they deserve.

“We support parents to make the right choices for their child regarding after-school activities.”


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