Okay, so here it is.
The summer holidays are drawing nearer and the excited wee screams of little children, as well as the clinking glasses of teachers are close to being heard echoing down the school corridors. In response to my last blog post, and the many opinionated politicians, government workers, parents, education secretaries old and new, including businessmen who believe that lengthly school holidays are ‘a historic situation left over from days gone by that’s never been tackled‘- Here are the 10 good reasons why school holidays should not be cut or for school hours to increase.
1) Teachers are educators, not babysitters. School days should not be prolonged because parents are working longer hours. Many morning and after school provisions are put into place for those parents who need it, at a small fee.
2) Research suggests that it is the quality of education that is more important and not the amount of time children spend in school. The Sutton Trust have reported that,
It is important to look at the quality of teaching and learning in school…it might be cheaper and more efficient to attempt to use existing time more effectively before considering extending the school day.
3) The government couldn’t afford to pay teachers for working longer hours. Year upon year there are education cuts, and if teachers work more than 195 days a year it would mean rewriting all teacher salaries.
4) Children need down time. They are already experiencing higher workloads outside the classroom with daily and weekly homework, as well as endless extracurricular activities and for some, Saturday School. Pupils cannot concentrate for extended periods of time, therefore making use of an extended school day counterproductive. Children need time to be children. They need time to relax, socialise and take part in hobbies. They shouldn’t have to work harder because their parents are.
5) Summer holidays are a time for exploration and development. Every child returns to school in September more socially developed and revitalised. The summer holidays are a time for children to see the world and not just read about it in books and to feel countries not just see them in pictures. It is also a time for parents to spend some ‘quality’ time with their children, to teach them fundamental values and nurture their growth. Children are more susceptible to acquiring these core values from their parents and family, as opposed to a teacher who has to share their attention between 30 children. For those families in the UK who cannot afford to take their child on holiday, the government should be creating free initiatives over the summer that gets children active in sport, the arts and other non-academic areas.
6) Summer holiday prices could skyrocket. Prices of flights and trips already increase during the school holiday season and could potentially go up further if this time is reduced. Flights and trips to popular destinations in the UK and abroad could mean that many families will not be able to afford a well-earned vacation.
7) A teacher’s workload is already staggering, and does not finish at 3:30 as many would believe. A typical day will see teachers enter school at 7:00 (or earlier) to prepare lessons for the day, begin teaching from 8:30 to 3:30 and continue with any of the following: Leading an after school activity; marking and planning learning for the next day; participating in staff meetings and insets; completing bureaucratic tasks such as risk assessments; conducting meetings with parents or parent teacher conferences; inputting termly data; assessing pupil progress; creating resources; putting up displays; writing e-mails/ letters home; preparing homework; organising trips; re-writing curriculums; leading subjects across the school; report writing…the list is endless! Teachers definitely do not leave work when the bell goes at 3:30, a more realistic time is 6 o’clock (and then they go home to continue further work if necessary.) A good/outstanding teacher struggles to switches off their mind from work during term time, thinking about how they can best execute tomorrow’s lessons so that all children make maximum progress, considering how to help little Johnny who is struggling to get to grips with division, or memorising that endless ‘to-do’ list in order of priority ready to juggle the workload for the following day. If a teacher spends further working hours in the classroom, then not only will they have less time to plan and organise outstanding lessons, but they will also run the risk of wiping themselves out. Unlike what many people assume, teachers work from home over the school holidays (the list of extra duties above have no chance of being finished during term time!) It is the children that have the time off.
8) More time in school would also mean more unavailable money is needed to fund the costs per head. Sutton trust also state that,
Extending the school year by two weeks would therefore need about £260 [more] per pupil per year for primary schools and about £360 per pupil per year for secondary.
9) High suicide and depression rates amongst children are evident in East Asian countries like South Korea, which have longer school days. In his endless reign, Michael Gove suggested that Britain needed to adopt an East Asian model for shorter school holidays and longer school days. However, real researchers, like neuropsychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik, compares the schooling structure in Finland (which currently has school days from 8am to noon and 14 weeks of holiday per year) with that of South Korea;
[In Finland] Children start school later, grades aren’t given until the age of 10 or 11, and school workloads have become lighter. And over the past decade, suicide rates have fallen by 40%. On the other end of the spectrum is South Korea, where children are over-stimulated in school and given private tutors, showing stellar academic results, but also a very high suicide rate.Michael Gove was not basing his assumptions on hard evidence but merely on anecdotes from other countries and cherry picked educational models when he wanted. A short while before this statement, he was praising the Finnish education system for their OECD ranking in 2012, as they scored the best in Europe for English, Math and Science and suggested that the UK adopt their devolved system (from this, ‘Academies’ were born.)
10) Anyone who disagrees with points 1-9 should think back to when they were a kid and how much they enjoyed down time after school, as well as the joys of the summer holidays. The archaic, old farts in office who struggle to reminisce, should quit their positions immediately and/or become a teacher.