Split or continuous school day: what is better and for whom?


After years of debate, the organization of the school day continues to open an important controversy between the supporters of a morning-only schedule (continuous day) and the traditional one that separates two school periods between morning and afternoon (split day). Is it possible to find out which model benefits the students and the rest of the educational community the most, beyond individual preferences?

Studies of a more technical nature do not fully affirm that one model is more beneficial than another to improve the teaching and learning process. We must also take into account other important factors that may be affected by the type of working day: socialization, the acquisition of values ​​or the operation of the centres.

(In this sense, recent research points to a negative impact of the continuous workday on family reconciliation, which affects mothers above all. A loss of family income has even been calculated at more than 8,000 euros).

Teachers see it clearly, families less

The results obtained in our quantitative and qualitative studies indicate that the majority of teachers prefer the continuous day. This contrasts with a more positive assessment of the split day by families and, depending on the issues, by the administrative and services staff (PAS).

The teaching staff and PAS groups state that the continuous working day favors them. They have more time for their personal interests, such as sports, hobbies or just being at home.

On the contrary, families offer more conflicting data according to their working hours. Those who work in the morning express similar opinions to teachers and PAS, while those who have a split day or work in the afternoon are clearly more in favor of a split day.

Practical reasons rather than performance

The data analysis shows that the reasons why the teaching staff support the continuous shift are above all issues of accommodation to their pace of life, travel and school organization, and not so much factors related to school performance, the prevention of conflicts or the implementation of tutorial action plans and educational projects. Teachers also indicate the possibility of having more time for their training and class preparation by having the afternoon off.

Regarding families, the factors that incline them more towards the continuous shift indicate the accommodation to their work schedules. For their part, the supporters of the split day point out as outstanding factors the attention on the part of the teaching staff in group or individualized tutorials and the improvement in academic performance, as well as the possibility of increasing socialization at school by staying longer periods of time. .

In the centers where there is a school canteen and after-school classes, families are more inclined towards a split day if it coincides with their work schedules.

What do we know so far

Among the most outstanding conclusions of our work, developed over almost two decades, we can affirm several essential questions that invite us to reflect:

  1. The progressive implementation of the continuous day has been due more to factors of family and work accommodation of teachers and families than to the search for the improvement of learning results and socialization of students.
  2. The group of teachers and PAS has been the biggest promoter of the change of day. Also some groups of families that work in the morning compared to others whose hours are longer in the afternoon.
  3. The autonomous communities with a continuous shift have not advanced more in academic results than those with a split shift (justified by PISA and diagnostic tests). Although obviously there are many cultural and socioeconomic factors that influence. In fact, there is a significant imbalance between the autonomous communities regarding rates of school failure or success in external tests.
  4. Extracurricular activities have grown much more in the autonomous communities with a continuous day, fostering the appearance of academies and municipal programs that try to compensate for the lack of activity in the schools that remain closed.
  5. More homework is detected in continuous day students.
  6. Teacher training has not increased in the afternoons in the autonomous communities with a continuous day.
  7. In the continuous day, the qualitative analysis detects more punctual problems in the schedule of personalized tutorials.
  8. The educational centers are being underutilized with respect to their equipment in the autonomous communities with a continuous day. However, electricity costs have decreased and the extended hours of the PAS have been shortened.
  9. Teachers with a continuous day remain more satisfied with this schedule than those who remain on a split day, who mostly want to switch to the continuous one.
  10. The families that most value the continuous shift point out the convenience of making fewer trips to the center to take and pick up their children, as well as the possibility of spending more time with them in the afternoons in the event that they do not work.

What happens outside of Spain?

This synthetic article aims to contribute to the reflection of a fairly local problem that is rarely raised in international literature regarding the use of time in school as an educational resource.

In fact, in the studies in this regard, the way in which the day is organized (split or continuous) does not appear, rather issues related to time efficiency , fatigue and tiredness rates and the effect of extracurricular activities in the process are worked on. teaching and learning , performance and socialization of students.

Therefore, it is convenient to continue talking about this issue and to know something that still has to be done: the reasoned opinion of the students, which should be the center of all this debate.

Author Bio: Francisco Jose Morales Iago is Professor of Human Geography at UNED – National University of Distance Education