There are years, with terms and half terms, usually predetermined by an authority, then there is the timetable, which, in Primary will dictate when the classes have to decamp to another space, perhaps for PE or games, Music or assembly.
Topics grow to fill the available space, so they are made to last the half term or term. Lessons have been made to last the sessions between playtimes. In both case there is a stop start element, which can have a significant impact on the dynamics of the learning. If learning is effectively closed down at the end of a lesson or before a holiday, there is the potential for it to become discontinuous, with an impact on outcome quality. It potentially removes the right of a teacher to determine that an extra fifteen minutes, taken from the next session, would mean a more positive outcome, for all children. It also means that transition between learning sessions is under teacher supervision, rather than needing a kick start after each playtime. If, in the course of a lesson, it becomes obvious that ground needs to be recovered, or areas need addressing, to see the time disappear means a delay in addressing the issue, potentially leading to further loss before the next lesson. In class intervention, at a point where it makes most sense would seem to be the most effective route.
It’s not a case of “mastery”, it’s a case of “getting it”.
What stops the teacher addressing the issue in the relevant lesson, adjusting the timings of the next lesson start accordingly? The answer, in some cases, is setting for subjects, so that there is a need to move from space to space to another teacher.
If homework is woven into the fabric of the learning, perhaps as “talk homework”, it supports the learning dynamic, rather than being a stand-alone activity.
Where topics are designed to fit the half term, there is the potential for fill-in activities, rather than substantive challenges, so why not ask how much time is actually needed for the topic? If time can be released in this way, then more can be covered.
With children changing teachers each year, there is an inevitable gap while teachers get to know the children well, enabling refined decisions.
However, if teachers are timetabled on a two year rotation, this can be a very effective means to avoid the inevitable half term of loss. If this is across years 4-5, then substantial progress can be made, with year 6 available for “polishing”. In a Primary, a 2-3 rotation can avoid cross phase loss too.
For interest, establishing a two week year-start topic of the teacher’s own choosing, with a brief to get to know the children well in that time, coupled with a closure on the second Friday, given to reflection, discussion and planning in detail, enabled the year to start, then progress based on evidence rather than assumptions.
Timing is everything.