Responding to the education secretary’s thoughts on longer school days and shorter holidays, Suzanne Moore asks how can a longer school day be ‘friendly’ to families when it simply means families will see even less of each other. This is from the Guardian…
In his whirl of “permanent revolution” – a term associated with Chairman Mao – Michael Gove, our frantic education secretary, has come up with yet another wheeze: the school day should be longer and children should have shorter holidays. We have to compete with China, after all. Gove (Mastermind specialist subject: Looking busy) never lets up, even when half his projects are junked by that Trotskyite front of teachers, parents, exam boards and Ofsted inspectors.
But like any working parent, I can see where he is coming from. Half-term always takes me by surprise, and I patch things together last minute. My life would have been far easier had my children been penned in for most of the time. Indeed, some people pay for this: it is called boarding school. Bizarrely, though, I like seeing my children sometimes – and what I see is that at the end of the day, and certainly by the end of term, they are tired.
Although we were told we are all Thatcherites now, I don’t know if this has got through to my youngest and her mates. They are in the first year of a comprehensive that starts at 8.30am and has after-school clubs every day. And a very short lunch break. Like most schools now. So they need some down time at the end of the day. And not being a Thatcherite myself means I don’t see tiredness as a moral failing.
What irks, though, is the way Gove is trying to sell this policy of schools as wraparound childcare as “family friendly”. This is an appropriation of a term that has long been a kind of code. When we did not want to appear as pushy feminist or uppity women, many started to try to address the work-life balance problem by using the term family friendly. It appears a neutral and ungendered term because it acknowledges both men and women as parents; it seeks to reconcile work that is paid and unpaid and can thus be extended to include all unpaid caring: looking after ageing parents as well as children.