Deal struck to extend school day

Wrangling finally over on changes to public schools that will also see an hour of exercise each day and an offer of study help

Weeks of bickering over a reform of the nation's schools came to an end today as the government agreed to terms with Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and Venstre (V) on an agreement education minister Christine Antorini described as "a very ambitious agreement that is good for children".

The government's plan to to extend the school day from the current 25 hours wound up with a compromise that saw the number hours children will spend in school each week extended to 30 hours of class time up to and including third grade, 33 hours from grades 4 to 6 and 35 hours a week for grades 7 to 9. The government had initially sought a school week that would see the oldest students in class for 37 hours.

All grade levels will have one school hour of physical education every day, and there will be more hours of Danish and mathematics starting in grade 4.

English will be introduced from the first year of school, and German or French will be an option starting in grade 5.

A course called ‘Craftsmanship and Design’ will replace courses in woodworking and needlework. Homemaking will now be known as ‘Food Knowledge’.  

For its support of the deal, DF insisted that a national centre for history and heritage be established.

There will be more electives for students and primary school exit exams will more accurately reflect what students will be required to know when they hit secondary school.

By 2020, teachers will be expected to have completed compulsory classes in the subjects they teach, and funding for continuing education for teachers, headteachers and assistants was included in the deal.

Negotiations over the controversial agreement started at the beginning of May. It looked like a settlement might be reached yesterday until representatives from Konservative were thrown out of the talks when they refused to support the establishment of a mandatory homework help for students, saying that it should be up to the schools to define how they would help students.

Under the new agreement, the schools are required to offer help, but according to Venstre spokesperson Kristian Jensen no student would be forced to use them.

"They will be there for all students if they want them, but they can decide not to use them and seek out other methods should they choose,” he said.

Forging the deal without the support of Konservative means the changes only become mandatory after the next parliamentary election, which will be held no later than 2015, but Santorini said councils can start implementing some aspects of the deal as early as next year.