Shorter school holidays? That works for me

Stephanie Merritt believes Michael Gove’s proposed amendments to the school calendar would help mothers who have to work and says that our outdated school calendar is currently one of their biggest obstacles. This is from the Observer…

It’s not often that I profess myself delighted to hear Michael Gove speak, but his proposal last week that schools should restructure the length of their days and their holidays to reflect the way we live now is one I’ve been hoping to hear for years.

It was timely, too, at least for me, since I have already started to panic about this summer’s long vacation and how I am going to keep my 11-year-old occupied for a month and a half while I continue working. As a single parent, it’s a planning operation that has to begin months in advance – booking courses or activity clubs before they fill up, pinning down grandparents to fill in on other days, bargaining with other parents about sharing the load, figuring out how much time I can afford to take off.

And the costs quickly mount up, even with family help. Every summer since my son started school, it has amazed me that no one dares address the problem of our archaic school calendar, because it lies at the heart of almost every discussion about family life/work balance and most debates about women’s inequality in the workplace.

Gove has presented it principally as an economic argument, suggesting that British schoolchildren lag behind their peers in East Asia because they spend less time learning and that longer days and shorter holidays would allow our children to compete better in a global marketplace. It’s simplistic to argue that more hours in school automatically equal better performance – obviously that depends entirely on the school and is part of a wider debate about how to improve standards. The more convincing argument, I think, is in terms of the impact a reformed timetable could have on the lives and prospects of women.

It seems self-evident that if the school day more closely matched a standard working day, it would be a significant step towards parity of opportunity for women in the workplace. As Gove pointed out, the current system was constructed around the needs of working families in the 19th century, where the long summer break enabled children to help with the harvest, and presupposed a mother confined to the home…

The article concludes…

The ideal would be a compromise: perhaps an extended day and four-week summer break, as has been trialled in some academies, combined with optional subsidised holiday schemes, such as those in Tower Hamlets, where children can take part in non-academic activities that enable them to have fun and learn new skills while their parents are able to work. Yes, it would require a significant investment, but we can’t go on ignoring the fact that many mothers need and want to work, and that our outdated school calendar is one of their biggest obstacles.

More at:  Shorter school holidays? That works for me


Anthony Seldon: Gove is wrong on holidays (but right on longer school days)
David Willetts, poor students need hard cash, not a silly letter
Categories: Parenting and Policy.


    • SchoolsImprove

      lindamcquone Is it wrong though to consider wider family issues (e.g. parental employment) when deciding schools policy?

      • lindamcquone

        SchoolsImprove but to arrange education for the convenience of parents rather than benefit of students isn’t right, surely?

      • lindamcquone

        SchoolsImprove and the writer’s points weren’t about education – it was all about getting free childcare!

  1. louloudillon

    I realise that you are a single parent but women’s inequality in the workplace is largely due to the assumption that they are responsible for childcare.  Many children have working fathers too who could also make plans.  Schools are there for learning, for the benefit of children, not the convenience of employers.

    How about more policies to make employment better connected to family life (working from home, flexible hours, job sharing) rather than making family life non-existant for everyone.

  2. hutchinsons14

    SchoolsImprove we teachers are also in the same predicament for keeping our children entertained but for us we have no other choice

  3. hutchinsons14

    SchoolsImprove we can’t book holidays off when we chose and we cherish any time we have with our own children #wearenotchildminders

  4. Organic_Jane

    SchoolsImprove So when are we supposed to replace our internal sewage drains & re route our leaking heating system? #EducationNotChildcare


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