Queensland has introduced flexible study options for all public primary and secondary schools to begin next year, with several schools already proposing shorter school weeks.
The shake-up, which was circulated to principals on Monday, includes options to allow students to study from home one day per week or to compress school hours over fewer school days.
Under the blueprint, schools can shorten their school week or change class times depending on teacher availability or staff and student wellbeing.
While principals must ensure students who attend school outside scheduled school hours are supervised, due to transport or family issues, the policy otherwise takes effect when schools change start or finish times by more than 30 minutes.
The new rules can apply to the entire student body or specific cohorts.
Queensland Secondary Principals Association (QSPA) president Mark Breckenridge told NCA NewsWire he was “certainly glad” the state was moving ahead with the new policy.
“The policy so far puts a framework in place that allows schools to have more flexible ways of learning for students, which is not a new thing in Queensland,” he said.
“Students in Years 11 and 12 might also be studying a university subject or a TAFE course or undertaking an apprenticeship, and I really do see this as a positive step in terms of encouraging innovation.”
Mr Breckenridge said the QSPA had been “very much involved” in the consultation behind the new policy, and said it helped encourage recognition that learning takes place in and outside of the classroom.
“Schools will need to carry out robust consultation across the broader school community before undertaking a trial, which will be at minimum length likely a semester or year, before reviewing that trial,” he said.
“The procedure is very clear about reviewing a new procedure, if it becomes permanent, after two years and then continuing to review things.
“Even if only the first step is taken it’s certainly a conversation starter for schools.”
The latest of the state’s schools to propose a potential four-day school week trial is the Queensland Academies Creative Industries (QACI), located in Queensland University of Technology’s Kelvin Grove campus.
QACI principal Mick Leigh recently notified parents of the possible change via email, according to The Courier Mail.
“This compressed week would have the same amount of contact hours and curriculum time compressed into four days,” the email read.
“The change was proposed to assist wellbeing for students and reduce cognitive stressors which lead to declining attendance and burnout.
“At QACI, the overall attendance rate is 86.9 per cent; 19.5 per cent of students have chronic absenteeism (less than 80 per cent attendance).
“Wednesday was decided upon (as the day off) with the intention to break up the cognitive load for students. A lot of VET and university courses are offered on Wednesday.
“Mondays have a lot of public holidays, Friday may not be as useful for providing access to campus.
“This day would be for independent learning.
“Students may elect to come into campus to work, study at home, undertake TAFE or tertiary courses or undertake wellbeing activities.
“Twelve teaching staff, one head of department and one executive would be on site on each Wednesday per week. This would be a rolling rotation.”
Corinda State High School, located in Brisbane’s south, recently proposed similar changes, while multiple schools in the state’s southeast have already put in place flexible school hours.