Should the Government Introduce Longer School Hours?
Recently, the Education Secretary Michael Gove has argued that pupils should spend longer hours at school and cut down holidays to compete with East Asian countries such as China as he fears pupils may start off their work life ‘handicapped’ due to world competition. He went on to say that while in England all students have their fair share of holidays many students in other countries are replacing their holidays with extra tuition and support.
He further goes on to claim that the current education system is not working, as it is an old system that fitted with 20th Century children, when the majority of mothers were stay at home mums. He further suggests that the school environment needs to be more ‘family-friendly’ to cope with a modern society and having longer school hours and less holidays will certainly achieve this. An example of a school with longer hours and less holidays is the David Young Community Academy in Leeds: but it is too early to see any results and only recently (2011) has the government allowed local authorities to extend school timings after consulting all parties involved.
However, many people oppose this view and argue that the quality of education is more important rather than the longer hours. Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) does admit that seeing the results of longer hours and less holidays would be very interesting but says that changes should be based on research and “not on anecdotes from other countries with vastly different cultures and attitudes to education“. Many teachers agree with this view and go on to strongly condemn Gove’s proposition as a mere point scoring tactic.
Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers is another individual unhappy with Gove’s suggestion and released the following statement which was welcomed warmly by many teachers:
“Despite official figures showing that the average teacher works more than 11 hours of unpaid overtime each week, despite most teachers having to prepare and mark work in the evening and at weekends and despite many teachers voluntarily coming in during school holidays because they care about the future of their pupils, the Secretary of State says that schools should be open longer.”
The debate continues but the real answer will only be evident when research and trials are carried out to assess what can be the best school system for 21st century children. I’d love to hear what you think, feel free to leave your comments below.