Qld school hours flexible but usual week still expected

Fraser Barton and Laine Clark |

Grace Grace says shorter school weeks are possible under the policy, particularly in remote areas.
Grace Grace says shorter school weeks are possible under the policy, particularly in remote areas.

Four-day weeks and shorter days may be possible next year for Queensland students under an updated school policy.

But Education Minister Grace Grace says the expectation will be for state schools to continue to operate over a five-day week.

Public school principals around the state this week received a framework for changing their operating hours from 2024 under an updated “flexible learning” policy.

“It’s an upgrade to the policy. It is definitely not a green light for a four-day week,” Ms Grace told reporters.

“In fact, schools are expected to operate over the five days per week.”

Deputy Premier Steven Miles agreed, saying he had bad news for students thinking they could have a day off next year.

“We expect our students to go to school full-time. We expect our teachers, if they are full-time, to also work full-time,” he said.

“So I guess in some ways this is bad news for most kids who read the headlines and thought they could take Fridays off.”

But Ms Grace said four-day weeks were possible under the updated policy, particularly in regional and remote areas.

She cited a school in the Darling Downs west of Brisbane as an effective use of the policy after being trialled in 2007.

The school is located in a rural community with only 12 students and has Monday off every fortnight.

“If other schools are looking at things like that, particularly in regional and remote areas, then there’s a solid scrutiny or procedure that they have to go through before they get approval,” Ms Grace said.

Most Queensland state schools hold classes from 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday.

Ms Grace said the updated policy allowed schools to be more flexible with their operating hours.

The upgraded process will be triggered if schools want to change their start or finishing times by more than 30 minutes.

“There is now a very solid, consistent scrutiny that schools have to go through (with) extensive consultation to be able to implement any changes,” Ms Grace said.

Any proposed change must occur in consultation with the school community including parents, staff and students and be approved by a regional director.

“Changes can only occur where the school community determines it provides benefits for students and families,” an Education Department statement said.

Any changes made must also meet curriculum requirements while not disadvantaging students.

The Education Department must provide approval for any consultation or trial on schedule changes.

A principal or representative taskforce will oversee the trial and be evaluated by a regional director before it can be fully implemented.

Under the updated policy, reasons for schools making schedule changes include teacher or resources availability, school community need or student and staff wellbeing and engagement.

The Queensland Secondary Principals Association said the policy provided certainty for schools on the level of consultation required before considering changes.

“Any conversation about changing the way the school operates is a focus on improving student outcomes,” association president Mark Breckenridge said.