Hey, Michael Gove – leave those kids’ summer holidays alone

Gove’s reasoning is that the long summer break is a relic of the 19th century when children were needed at home to pick potatoes and such like

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The Independent Online

It’s good to see that Michael Gove has been industrious over his 20-day Easter break.

No sleeping till noon and lolling on the sofa with the Xbox. Fuelled by spring lamb and Lindt bunnies, he skipped back to work this week with a new project on the subject of hours, and how pupils and teachers are not putting in enough of them. School holidays are too long he says, and the school day is too short.

Gove’s reasoning is that the long summer break is a relic of the 19th century when children were needed at home to pick potatoes and such like. Now, with farming all but wiped out, and mothers out at work, earning cash to pay for those crippling university tuition fees, the school timetable is no longer family friendly or “consistent with the pressures of modern society”.

Undeniably there will be parents – working and non-working – who will greet this idea with joy. The prospect of six long weeks of housebound children can be slightly horrifying. But Gove is less bothered by harried parents, it seems, than he is by the “global race” to academic supremacy. “If you look at the length of the school day in England, the length of the summer holiday, then we are running in this global race in a way that ensures we start with a significant handicap,” he said.

Hear hear, Gradgrind. Why give children any holidays at all? A bare minimum four weeks off a year is far better preparation for a lifetime of working until they are 70, isn’t it? Well, no. There is little proof that cramming makes for cleverer pupils. And a long break in the summer is not just a throwback to picking potatoes, it’s about changing seasons and giving children time to grow in the great outdoors.

Long summer holidays engender skills that can’t be taught from the blackboard or measured by Sats scores. They are about learning to climb trees, and to get on with your siblings. There is more to life than sitting at a desk and striving to win the global race – which is presumably why Gove and his fellow MPs will enjoy their seven-week recess as normal this summer.

Adele's right, she needs life experience

Good old Adele. The soul singer has reportedly turned down a seven-figure deal from Harper Collins to write her autobiography. In her 24 years, she has accrued one Oscar, two mega-hit albums, four Brit Awards, nine Grammies, a personal fortune of £30million and 1.46million clicks for “Someone Like You”, making it the most downloaded song ever. Nevertheless, she has said that she would like to gather a little more life experience before writing it all down.

She is quite right – 24 is far too young to start looking back, although that hasn’t stopped the likes of Katie Price (34, four autobiographies), Wayne Rooney (27, three volumes), and Justin Bieber (19, two down, many more to come). The world certainly doesn’t need another stocking filler with an airbrushed glossy cover and a punny title (“Someone Like Me”, maybe?). And you might argue that Adele has already done her fair share of sharing on her two lovelorn albums 19 and 21.

There is also the small matter that last year, when she was essentially on maternity leave, Adele earned £41,000 a day in royalties etc. So perhaps the usual motivation for putting pen to paper – turning a fast buck – doesn’t apply.

Twitter: @alicevjones