45-hour school week: Headteacher believes parents are warming to plans

TEACHERS believe parents are warming to 45-hour week school plans, despite a heated opposition meeting last week.

More than 60 Greenacre Primary School parents voiced their concerns at Yarmouth town hall, worried that the radical timetable will wear out their children.

But head teacher Bill Holledge said just four parents out of 120 have indicated they do not wish their children to be part of the free enrichment programme - which will keep Year 5 and 6 pupils at school until 6pm.

He did not attend Friday's meeting - due to prior commitments - but circulated further information about the plans to parents.

'Talking to parents in the playground, they were reassured by the information we've given out,' he said. 'There's a growing ground swell of support.'

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The initial line-up of activities has now been revealed, with horseriding, karate, cookery, drama and basketball confirmed as being on offer in September.

But parents at Friday's meeting said they are not convinced of the benefits yet - though they wished the timetable to be optional rather than scrapped altogether.

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And they do not want the name Greenacre Primary School to be scrapped in favour of Great Yarmouth Primary Academy - saying the history of the name is too important to them.

Mum-of-two Gina Webster said: 'I'm all for the academy, but 45 hours per week is way too much for any primary school child.

'My children would be tired and my eldest doesn't want to do it - we wouldn't have time to sit down and talk about his school day at meal times.

'It's a good offer but we think it should be optional.'

Father-of-one Lee Catchpole added: 'I wouldn't have wanted to do this as a kid. The head teacher has done a good job, but we just want the option.'

The school is looking to organise presentations to explain the timetable, and Mr Holledge added he is open to parents shadowing activities to see firsthand how the new timetable will work.

He drew criticism for appearing on TV news the same day as the 6pm town hall meeting, with mother-of-one Valli Catchpole stating: 'I was disappointed the headmaster was not here to voice his own opinions.'

Kerry Robinson Payne, Nelson ward councillor and a former Greenacre pupil herself, added that parents have told of their frustration at the lack of direct communication.

She said. 'Bits of paper with things written on aren't the same as being present, and I think lots of frustration would have been alleviated if they were here.'

But Mr Holledge assured parents a separate prior commitment prevented his attendance.

'I genuinely wasn't available,' he said. 'Look East rang at lunchtime to ask if they could do an interview.

'I went to their studio to do that late afternoon, and we shot it at 5pm.

'They wanted to do it live at 6pm but I couldn't be there.'

Millionaire sponsor Theodore Agnew and Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis also failed to attend, with Mr Lewis sending an aide who read a statement on his behalf.

Rex Parkinson Hare, county councillor for Yarmouth Nelson and Southtown, told the meeting parents can legally withdraw their children from lessons at 3.30pm - even when the day runs until 6pm.

A statement from Mr Holledge confirmed this, but stated parents must then sign a form acknowledging that they are withdrawing their child from the 'additional opportunities which the school is offering'.

They must also appreciate that their child 'will not benefit from the full broad and balanced curriculum that the school is committed to providing.'

After opting out youngsters cannot opt back in until after the October half term, which angered parents.

Mr Holledge said this was for 'capacity planning' reasons, and hoped few would feel the need to opt out.

Councillors are seeking a meeting with Mr Holledge and Mr Agnew to put across points made at last week's meeting, and said a further public meeting is being arranged for August 3.

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