Are longer school hours a good idea? Former policy adviser Paul Kirkby thinks so, proposing that cutting holidays and extending the school day could be a “perfect” 2015 election promise for the Tories. Education Secretary Michael Gove called for similar action in 2013, but are extended days really the answer? Here’s what teachers, bloggers and working mums thought of the idea...
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers
“Countries which are held up as examples of excellence, such as Finland, have shorter teaching hours than in the UK and longer summer holidays. Independent schools in England and Wales, which often break for two weeks more during the summer and have longer holidays at other times of the year than their state counterparts, do not feel the need to shorten them and are apparently not suffering from their reduced hours.
“Teachers already work some of the longest hours of any profession with many putting in 50 to 60 hours a week. There needs to be a balance to ensure that both teachers and pupils have time to re-charge their batteries.”
Mandy Garner, editor of Working Mums
“While working parents do need help with childcare, we would be happier with solutions that give them more options rather than enforcing a very long day on children. That is why we would like to see greater availability of subsidised after school care which supports working parents and gives them options about how they cover childcare.”
Debby Anderson, 38, single mother of two and local volunteer, East Sussex
“I can’t help but wonder if this is just another sly government scheme aimed at returning more parents to work. Currently, lone parents are entitled to opt for working in school hours only and this would potentially mean that they have to be available for a full day’s work.
“I’m not sure how it contributes to quality of family life either. If both parents are at work between 8.30-6 and children are in school for those hours too then potentially with the added tiredness and stress this would put on family life there would be much less time in the day to connect, spend time together, talk and play. Ultimately everyone will suffer. “
In pictures: Michael Gove's most controversial policies
In pictures: Michael Gove's most controversial policies
1/5 Free Schools
Free schools, which operate independently from their local authority but receive state funding, continue to fuel controversy. Alongside the closure of a flagship free school amid quality of teaching concerns, critics have said that free schools are not being set up in areas where there is a demand for school places
2/5 GCSEs and A Levels Reform
In a move away from coursework, schoolchildren will no longer take AS levels but sit their A Level exams at the end of the two year course. For GCSE students meanwhile, only their first attempt at an examination will count towards a school's performance table after Mr Gove said that schools putting pupils forward early for their exams was a 'damaging trend'
3/5 Teachers' working conditions
At the heart of the ongoing dispute about pay and working conditions lies the policy of 'performance related pay', where teachers get paid more if they meet certain standards
4/5 Phonics Check
The Phonics Screening Test is a compulsory assessment for children in year one where children are asked to decode a mixture of real and made-up words. The government sees the test as a way for schools to spot slow readers, while teachers say that even the brightest fail it
Sweeping changes to the national curriculum are to be introduced in September 2014. Among the changes, multiplication tables will be at the centre of the curriculum for six- to seven-year-olds while history will be taught chronologically. Mr Gove says that he wants to have the 'sort of curriculum that children in other countries have, which are doing better than our own'
Karen Whitlock, Secondary school teacher from Gloucester
“I am a secondary school teacher and I see how older children get tired at the end of the current school day. Making children stay longer will not result in quality teaching and learning, and will instead remove valuable time for children to play, get involved in after school activities and erode away precious family time.”
Liz Bayram, PACEY (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years) Chief executive
“This type of care is already on offer in a variety of different settings including childminders, afterschool clubs and indeed in some schools. I suspect many parents would prefer policy proposals around how government can expand this sort of provision further and better support families with the cost of childcare than proposals to keep teaching children for longer days.”
Siobhan Freegard, founder of Britain’s biggest parenting site Netmums
“On Netmums seven in eight parents are opposed to the plans. Our members rightly point out many children are in bed by 6.30pm, so finishing school at 6pm just won’t work. Educational experts agree children need time to relax, to play and to wind down, even if it’s something as simple as drawing a picture at home with their family. It isn’t wasted time where they should be at school and cramming in more lessons – it’s a vital part of childhood.
“Extending the school day will also cause thousands of job losses as childminders and people who run after school clubs like sports, drama and music are forced out of business.
“This seems like a plan to force more mums back to work, rather than drive up educational standards. If the Government wants more parents to work, firms NEED to be more flexible when employing parents, not expect four year old kids to fit around big business.
Netmums did a poll last week for which mothers agree should lengthen the school day – the results were:
Yes – 12%
No – 88%