London primary school to become first in UK to cut working week to four-and-a-half days

A primary school in London could become the first in the country to cut its working week to four-and-a-half days amid a budget crisis.

St Mary's Catholic Primary School in Isleworth has been criticised after suggesting the week could end at 12.45pm on Fridays.

In a letter sent out on Friday, the school told parents they should "actively investigate child care options for your children on Friday afternoons" from September.

But in a Facebook post on Monday it insisted “no decision has been made”.

The school had consulted with parents in October 2017, with the need to save cash coming as a result of government demands to increase in National Insurance and pension contributions without increasing school funding.

Options explored included cutting the working week and decreasing the length of lunchtime, cutting the number of teaching assistants or getting parents to pay £400 extra per child each year.

In last week's letter St Mary's said it favoured the former scenario and would “develop the proposal into the final arrangements as a matter of urgency”.

Parents have expressed concern on the school's Facebook page. Emma White wrote: "I know that childcare is a massive issue for most people, but surely the main problem is that OUR children will be receiving 10 per cent less education than their peers and I don’t believe this will have no impact when they get to secondary school. 

"The school day already seems ‘crammed’ and to have less time to do all the tasks that the teachers have to get done is just insane.

"For teachers as well as children. It’s just so sad that our school seems the worst affected in the country."

St Mary's has refused to comment directly.

Councillor Tom Bruce, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Education at Hounslow Council, said: “We are aware of the decision of St Mary's Catholic Primary School, Isleworth, to consult with parents on proposals to close the school early on a Friday afternoon from September 2018.

“At this stage, no decision has been taken by the governors and following the consultation with parents we understand that the school are now consulting with staff. We work closely with all of our schools and look forward to hearing the outcome of the consultation when it is completed.

“We are sure that the decision to consult on changing the school week is a difficult one but we are confident that the school will listen to the comments made by parents and staff with the best interest of the pupils in mind."