When a former Government advisor in the UK, Paul Kirby, published a personal blog last week stating his view that the school day should be lengthened and holidays shortened, my twitter timeline was awash with strong views. Curious, as I always am when I see such strong opinions appearing – with such frequency and consistency – I immediately went and found the article in question (and also found the headline that I used as this weeks Prompt).
Having read Paul Kirby’s blog several times now it worries me; before we even get into the whys and wherefores (and our personal opinions) of the idea itself; it worries me because it sounds credible. Some of the points made are valid, even if the solutions could be viewed as ill thought.
It all stems from Education Minister Michael Gove’s proposals to reform British education; to improve standards, to achieve parity between state and private education, to provide all children with the same opportunities as their peers, both in the UK and globally; along with his pledge for 10 hour school days, confirmed in a Keynote speech at the London Academy of Excellence on Monday.
These aims are commendable, who wouldn’t want improved education for our children? And, the proposed inclusion of extra-curricular activities within the school day has some merit – providing equal exposure and opportunity for all children.
But, is a longer school day really the answer?
Aside from Paul Kirby’s educational arguments, he delivers an economic one, one that he presumes will ‘capture the imagination of woman voters’.
On the face of it, there is an issue. A lack of affordable child care is limiting what many families can do. Many parents, mainly mothers, find themselves unable to work simply because it is not economically viable for them to do so. The costs of childcare outstripping the salary coming in creates an impossible Catch 22 for many families. Lengthening the school day apparently solves this, although I am still slightly unclear as to who would really pay for it.
I’m a woman voter, but he’s not captured my imagination yet.
Surely affordable childcare alongside workable, family/parent friendly, employment policy is the solution?
Extending the school day would indeed provide an alternative to childcare/after school clubs, and there is merit in trying to find a solution for children whose home life does not allow for effective study or relaxation time. This is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed.
But, by extending the school day you take away any flexibility that parents have to create a weekly routine that suits them and their families, and provides a balance between school and family time.
When my sons were younger, I worked full time. They were in nursery from 8am until 5.30pm. This is the sort of day that Gove is recommending. I cannot, therefore, come down and say that longer days are inherently a bad thing: they are a reality for many.
However, when my oldest son started school, we made the decision not to put him into after school care; worrying that with more formal, structured and harder days he would simply be too tired. We managed the mid-afternoon school pick ups with varying degrees of success and increased stress levels! I recognise that we were lucky to be able to do this.
While we are in the US I am able to stay home with the kids, so childcare (or lack of it) is not an issue. Although my sanity might be, and while that’s a whole other blog post, it is worth mentioning that I believe that this is an important consideration when looking at childcare, costs and flexibility – some of us parents may actually choose to work because we want to…
All other arguments aside, and I could easily comment on (positively and negatively, in fairness) every point in Paul Kirby’s blog, the length of the school day remains the key issue.
Frankly, I just want to be able to decide how long my child’s ‘formal’ day is, in addition to core school hours. How many activities he does, how many clubs and electives, how many sports and how many hours he gets to simply play, relax and unwind.
As I’ve said, I don’t think a long day can be categorically deemed a bad thing. Claiming that, in itself, takes away a parents right to balance work and home time in a way that suits their particular family circumstance; stigmatising parents who work full time.
But, as with all things, it’s about choice and balance.
About choosing how we raise our children, how we strengthen our families, how we prioritise our time.
About balancing formal and informal learning, school and family.
Education is vitally important and I want the best education possible for my children. I also want them to be well rounded, happy individuals capable of balancing their own interests and working to their own strengths. I don’t believe that lengthening the school day addresses, or solves, the issues facing families.
And, on a purely personal level, I want to see my children grow and develop. I want to be part of their education. I want to teach them the things that they won’t learn at school. I want to foster their individuality and safe guard their happiness.
I simply want to spend time with them.
If you have been inspired to write by this prompt, I would love it if you would link up. I can’t wait to read your posts!
If you are new to The Prompt you can find out more here.
There are a few rules…
1. Link up a new post inspired by The Prompt (although, if you have an old post that fits perfectly, I’d love to read it)
2. Please use the badge on your post or in your sidebar to guide others to the linky. I will of course share your post on Twitter in return.
3. Please visit as many others in the linky as you can – comments and encouragement are what make linkys work :)
The linky will remain open until Thursday evening, so there is plenty of time to link up.
And, please come back on Sunday for the next Prompt!