There's no point in comparing our school holidays to other nations

When I got a bad school report and compared myself to others, my Dad said: “I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about you”. It’s that kind of philosophy Gove needs

Share
Related Topics

You know that nightmarish scenario in which a teacher, fed up with their student constantly sniggering at the back of the class, asks: “Well, why don’t you teach the lesson?” Michael Gove as education secretary is what happens when that cheeky little kid ends up running the school.

Gove’s latest shot-in-the-dark idea to ‘save’ British education is recommending school open longer hours and have shorter holidays. In a speech to an education conference in London yesterday, he said the current school timetable was out of date, and was “designed at a time when we had had an agricultural economy. We can’t afford an education system set up in the 19th century.” His plans allow schools to open at 8.30 and close at 4.30pm and introduce a four-week summer holiday from September 2014.

He takes into evidence findings that suggest students in Hong Kong and Singpore had superior scientific knowledge expected of them “at every stage” of their educational development. But he didn’t cite any actual facts that recommend longer hours and shorter holidays. With no evidence to the contrary, it just looks like he thinks it a good idea.

Gove claims that at school in East Asian countries: “hard work is at the heart of everything” and the length of the British summer holiday puts our young people at a “significant handicap”. But take a look at some of our neighbours: in Germany, whose economy is the envy of Gove’s Notting-Hill buddy George Osborne, children start school at six (a year later than the UK) and the school day typically ends at about 1pm in junior school, while in France, most schools have a four-day week – Wednesday is a whole day off. Remember, British education, for all its faults, is ranked sixth in the world.

And independent schools here in Britain, who have no issues in getting a majority of their students into good universities, have as much as six weeks more holiday a year than their state counterparts.

And does Gove really think children become slackers in the summer? Holidays are more than equal to education for a child’s personal development, where young people can explore, relax, have fun and mature outside the confines of a rigid day-to-day environment. My feeling has always been that while he’s encouraged the wrath of teachers, academics, unions, it’s the most important people Gove really hasn’t considered – the children themselves.

What equally remains baffling is Gove’s assessment that British education should be remorselessly assessed against ‘rival’ nations. George Osborne believes that we shouldn’t take the advice of foreign financiers and the IMF – but Gove doesn’t feel the same.

When I got a bad school report, I remember comparing myself to others in my class with lower grades (if there were any), and my Dad saying: “I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about you”. It’s that kind of introspective philosophy that Gove needs when he compares British education to other nations – real life isn’t an episode of the Weakest Link.

Which is funny, because Gove has recently been in the headlines for next year’s “pub quiz” national curriculum, which has received a kicking from everyone from the Royal Historical Society to James Dyson to the Muslim council of Great Britain.

A curriculum should encourage a child’s awareness, make them enquire, engage them in debates and discussions and understand better the world in which they live. I’m certainly not denying the requirement for reform in British schools; the culture of exams and assessment is entirely inappropriate, and there are significant problems in school leavers entering employment without basic language or arithmetic skills. But Gove’s plans are scattergun, and he thinks like a pub quiz player trying to top a leaderboard.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits