Longer School Days… or, Michael Gove: The Enemy of Family Time.

The article to which I responded.

The article to which I responded.

First published in Portsmouth News, 18/02/14. I wrote this in response to another columnist whose article was published last week. The version that is in the newspaper today is missing a particular line, but it is a line that I felt was important, so here’s the full version:

Recently, there has been much coverage given to the suggestion that the school day should run until 6pm. I have read several responses to this, none of them favourable, and today I read the opinion of Clive Smith in this paper.

Mr Smith raised the worry that most people have: where is the family time? Where, within that ludicrously long day, will people see their exhausted children? Where will the time be for extra-curricular activities, or cuddles with your youngsters before they’re not so young anymore?

Unfortunately, Mr Smith lost focus by taking the opportunity to have a random dig at teachers. Apparently that’s alright though, because he once ‘worked in a classroom’. This is akin to people that try to pretend they can’t possibly be homophobic because they have ‘lots of friends who are gay’.  He went on to make fun of a child who did not speak English, and who clearly had special educational needs of some kind.

It was an ill-researched piece, which subsequently could not be taken seriously, and that is a shame, because Mr Smith is absolutely right about the effects of the possible new day on our children.

Teachers work long hours, as do many people. By 7.30am most are in their classrooms preparing, and by 6pm most are leaving, ready to kiss their own kids goodnight and to start work again at home.

Which begs the question: how on earth are they going to do the work that is necessary to ensure a high standard of education for our families, if they will not even be leaving their classrooms until approx 9pm?

Everyone is going to suffer: the teachers, the parents, and, crucially, the children. The relationship between parents and teachers is disintegrating because, sometimes understandably, the parents want to shoot the messenger, who happens to be stood at the classroom door. The fault however lies with the government.

They are creating a battleground where once there stood a playground. People like Mr Smith, who waste their privilege of having a public platform from which to air their views, propagate the example that it’s acceptable to blame teachers. As a parent I find this remarkably frustrating.

Teachers don’t expect the parents to roll out a glitter cannon and perform a Mexican Wave each afternoon at 3pm, complete with jazz hands and the National Anthem. However, it would be nice to acknowledge that we are all on the same side, and that our children come first.

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