Is ‘school’ school or childcare Mr Gove?

Longer school days and shorter school holidays – really Mr Gove?

Oh Mr Gove, what have you gone and done now? Longer school days and shorter school holidays. Hmm. As the wonderful Glosswitch puts it so eloquently in her Michael Gove wants longer school days because… reasons post on The New Statesmen,

“Teachers must wish Michael Gove worked shorter days and took longer holidays – then his department might stop coming up with so many ill-considered changes to the education system”.

I dare say there’s more than a few of us parents who feel the same way. In fact I know as much, as I’ve read two other great posts on the subject in the last few hours. Firstly on Actually Mummy in A letter to Mr Gove and then on Emma And Three (in fact Emma is a teacher and parent, so she is able to experience this latest doling out of madness from both perspectives.

My first thought when I heard the news was, “erm, Mr Michael Gove, aren’t you getting school mixed up with childcare?” It certainly seems he is, with all his talk of the agricultural economy of yesteryear and working parents’ needs.

It’s not that the current childcare situation isn’t a major issue, it is certainly something that needs addressing. But school shouldn’t be the mode whereby working parents’ needs for childcare are met. What needs to happen there is a societal shift in how we work. But more on that in another post.

School, yes that’s S.C.H.O.O.L  Mr Gove. School is where children go to learn. I know you know this, because of your many other edicts about education. School isn’t childcare or a substitute for childcare or something put in place for the benefit of parents. School is for children, somewhere they go to learn, hopefully in a manner in which they enjoy.

But the kind of learning that children do in school isn’t all the learning they do. Every part of their lives is about learning. And variety is not only the spice of life but the spice of learning. Children need time to be children, every adult knows how fleeting childhood is, so why minimise their one big chance of just being children? There will be plenty of time for them to have their lives ruled by working hours once they graduate to adulthood.

Tired out by Friday

But almost more important than having the space to experience and learn from life outside of the school gates, is affording children the opportunity to have downtime. Time to rest and recuperate.

My daughter is three years old and at nursery school five mornings per week, from 8:45 until noon. She thrives on her mornings at nursery. But by Friday lunchtime she is wiped out. In fact some weeks I don’t take her in on a Friday, because I’d rather she chilled out. Scale her age  up to four and a half and her school hours up to 8:45am – 3:20pm and she is going to be just as knackered if not more so.

This is the tale I hear from parents whose children are already at school. By the end of the week children are tired. By the end of term they are tired, tired, tired. So, how can anyone in their right mind think it is a good idea to elongate school hours and reduce the length of school holidays?

I’ll admit to those who haven’t read it, that I wrote a bit of a whinge of a post a couple of days back, about my first attempt at juggling work with a sick daughter. I know it is hard for us parents to juggle work and school hours, it isn’t ideal. I know I am incredibly lucky to be able to tailor the current stage of my career around being around for my daughter when she needs me.

But I just don’t see the answer being longer school days and shorter school holidays, especially not when it is being wrapped up as being for the good of the children.

So please Mr Gove, stop and think about what you are proposing. Listen to parents. Go on. Step out of your Gove-Bubble and really listen to parents’ reaction to your latest non-sensical witterings. Then think again Mr Gove. Is ‘school’ school or childcare?

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