Monday, 15 August 2022

Headmaster defends switch to new shorter school week

THE headmaster of Shiplake College has defended changes to the school week following criticism by parents.

THE headmaster of Shiplake College has defended changes to the school week following criticism by parents.

The independent school introduced a “shape of the week” programme in September which moved the boarders’ end of the week from 5pm on a Saturday to lunchtime.

The three lessons that used to be held on a Saturday morning have been moved to weekdays and now most sports fixtures and training take place on Saturday mornings instead of in the afternoon.

The college says the change from a six-day to five-and-a-half-day week was prompted by more parents wanting flexible boarding for their children so they can see them every weekend.

But some parents have complained that their children are now finishing on a Friday as they no longer play sport on Saturday unless they are in one of the college’s top teams.

One parent said: “I do not believe the school could make such changes without entering into new contracts with parents and indeed those parents agreeing to those contracts. Nor do I accept that the lost half day has been absorbed into the other five. I signed up for a five-and-a-half day school week with sport on Saturday afternoons, a proven public school formula.”

The parent called the “disruption and hassle” caused by the change “totally unacceptable”, adding: “Last term my son was only required on one Saturday, an open day. This term he has not been in on a single Saturday as he plays in the second hockey team, who have matches on Wednesdays.

“I am paying for a traditional public school week and yet it has become a five-day week. The cessation of Saturday lessons and sport is, in my mind, nothing more than a cost-saving measure that may suit the school but that does not suit us as fee-paying parents.

“If I knew this was going to happen when I was looking for a new school for my son, I would not have chosen Shiplake.”

Another parent said: “The new arrangement has meant that, although he [my son] is supposed to board every Friday evening, he invariably does not have a match on the Saturday and has been home most Friday evenings.

“This has not only had an impact on us as a family as the pick-up on a Friday is very difficult but has also impacted on his school life and I am sure the atmosphere in his boarding house as the dynamics of the house have changed.”

Another parent claimed the new arrangements were “damaging” the school, adding: “Saturday has now been lost as a constructive school day.”

The college says that Saturday lessons were frequently less productive than those in the week and were often missed by pupils having to leave for sports fixtures or personal commitments.

All pupils are expected to attend the college on a Saturday if required for sport, open mornings or other commitments. Boarders not involved in sport have supervised study on Saturday mornings.

Headmaster Gregg Davies said the move was in line with other independent schools, such as Queen Anne’s in Caversham and Abingdon School. Girls signing up for weekly boarding at Shiplake had risen by 50 per cent, he said.

Mr Davies said the college’s sporting arrangements had not changed in the 12 years he had been at Shiplake.

The college didn’t have a full-size artificial pitch so had to play games at Jubilee Park in Henley or in Sonning but these were fully booked and couldn’t be used on Saturdays.

Mr Davies said: “In the 12 years I’ve been here we have never played any home matches on Saturday, we have always played those on Wednesday.”

He admitted the new school week needed tweaking but said the college still offered homework sessions for boarders on a Friday evening as well as on Saturday mornings.

“The parents are allowing their children to choose to go home on Friday — it’s not me that’s making them go,” said Mr Davies.

The college says it conducted a survey with parents about “shape of the week” and found the majority were happy with the new timetable.

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