Young children left at school 10 hours a day, warn teachers

Education Editor

Children as young as four are spending 10 hours a day at a school as an example of the erosion of family life, according to research published today.

A survey of more than 1,300 teachers reveals growing numbers of parents are putting the need to work ahead of spending quality time with their children.

One teacher from a Kent primary school told researchers: "Many of our parents are commuters into London and therefore work long hours. We have children as young as four who are at school 8am to 6pm, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner."

Another early years teacher from North Yorkshire added: "These children walk around like ghosts, do not talk to anyone, fall asleep, do not progress as quickly as their peers. Their parents are also 'too busy' to support them in an adequate way at home."

More than half those surveyed (56 per cent) said today's children were spending a lot less time with their families compared to 20 years ago - 74 per cent believed the time spent with families was less than five years ago.

More than nine in 10 (94 per cent) believed this was as a result of parents and carers working.

Steve Wood, a secondary school teacher from Kirklees, said: "The pressures on family time have grown considerably and work-life balance for many parents is an increasingly difficult area - the necessity to stay in work means time spent with children isn't always a priority."

Another primary school teacher from Bexley added: "I feel that, through no fault of the the parents, there is an expectation to work before looking after your family. Living costs mean it is unaffordable for only one parent to work and there is less importance attached to bringing up children."

The research, carried out by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, comes in advance of a motion being debated at the union's annual conference in Manchester today criticizing moves to encourage children to start school earlier.

Earlier this month chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said more children - particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds - would benefit from learning in a school-based environment from the age of two. Schools Minister Elizabeth Truss added that two-year-olds would benefit from school-based nurseries.

The majority of teachers in the survey disagreed, though, with 71 per cent saying children should only start in school at the age of five, with only 24 per cent believing the current trend towards starting at four was correct.

The teachers also argued that children should only spend five hours a day or less at school in the primary sector, whereas a majority (83 per cent) thought 5.5 hours or six hours should be the maximum in the secondary sector.

"I think we start formal education and learning far too early in this country," said one head of department in Conwy, Wales. "By the time children reach secondary school, they are fed up with learning. The pressure is too much, too soon."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, added: "Proposals by the Government for children to start school at an earlier age, along with proposals for flexibility for schools and colleges to change the length of the school day and school holidays do not put young people first.

"It's really important for children to have time to be children, to play with friends and spend time with their families,  However, increased living costs mean that for most families it is now unaffordable for only one parent to work.

"Parents in the UK are working some of the longest hours in Europe and this puts a huge pressure on family life. Parents are coming home exhausted having worked from 7am to 7pm and frequently the children are tired, too, if they've spent all day at school or with childminders."

The survey also claimed that new technology also played a part in reducing the time children spent with their parents - with children spending more time on home computers than with their parents.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Nurse and Room Leader - Hackney

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a qualified childcare p...

AER Teachers: PPA TEACHER/MENTOR

£27000 - £37000 per annum: AER Teachers: THE SCHOOL: This is a large and vibra...

AER Teachers: EYFS Teacher

£27000 - £37000 per annum: AER Teachers: EYFS TEACHERAn 'Outstanding' Primary ...

AER Teachers: YEAR 3 TEACHER - PREPARATORY SCHOOL

£27000 - £40000 per annum: AER Teachers: YEAR 3 TEACHER - PREPARATORY SCHOOLA ...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones