“No school summer holiday”, says Gove

Emily Handley - News Reporter 26 April 2013

Michael Gove’s latest proposal for extending school hours and reducing the amount of holiday to which schoolchildren are currently entitled to has been met with opposition from local teachers.

Gove has argued that the changes, which would allow state schools to run their schooldays until 4.30pm and hold shorter, four-week summer holidays, will improve academic performance and lessen the pressure placed on working parents, yet these changes have since been described by teachers as “insulting”.

Gove intends to implement the reforms from September 2014 onwards, meaning that in some cases, working families will no longer have to fit their duties around the school timetable. Teachers’ contracts would have to be redrafted following the plans, as the changes would see them working longer hours than the current average total of 1265 hours – or 195 days – every year.

Tricia Kelleher, Headteacher of Perse School in Cambridge, said: “As someone who would value debate about the best configuration of school terms for learning, I find Gove’s intervention really unhelpful.

“Anyone actively involved in education knows that the physical corralling of students in a classroom does not necessarily equate to learning. Learning is not a mechanical process to be packaged and measured by length of service in schools”, she argued.

Speaking at a conference in London last week, the MP explained that the British school system has originally been modelled around the agricultural economy system that has existed in Britain during the nineteenth century, arguing that the current way in which British schools are run could lead to the predicament of being overtaken by their Asian counterparts.

The National Union of Teachers has been vocal about its opposition to the reforms, explaining in a recent statement that: “Michael Gove’s support for an extended school day and shorter school summer holidays does not stand up to scrutiny.

“We must remember that children and young people are entitled to a childhood and some time when they can simply relax. Not everything they learn stems from being in a classroom and we know that many parents will agree with us.”

These proposals were preceded by prior developments by Gove on the introduction of performance-related pay in schools, which was similarly criticised by the teachers’ union. Further, Gove announced on Monday the introduction of the “technical baccalaureate”, a qualification that is being described as a vocational alternative to A-levels.

Emily Handley – News Reporter