Tinkering with education by successive governments is the bane of teacher’s lives. Politician’s seem to believe that, even if the system isn’t broke, they still need to fix it. The ill fated National Curriculum In Britain was a prime example. Introduced at massive cost in terms of money and time, it was soon watered down and is now practically none existent. It did nothing to raise standards of education in fact in many ways it lowered them.
Now, Michael Gove wants to make radical changes to the English system by introducing longer school days and shorter holidays. His inspiration seems to have come from the Far East where he says children benefit from more contact in the classroom. Of course he is ignoring the fact that, in many countries and most independent schools in Britain, children have even longer school holidays, shorter working days and still manage to be successful. His notion that the school holidays in Britain are geared to an outdated agrarian society where children went potato picking is just plain nonsense.
Current contracts for teachers stipulate 1,265 hours per year for 195 days of which 5 are set aside for training. Most, if not all teachers far exceed those hours already when you take account of marking, preparation, report writing etc. For example, Pamela’s children at Pensby Park might have gone home at 3:30pm but she rarely set foot out of her classroom before 5:30 or even 6pm and still had more to do later in the evening. Go to the school gates an hour or so after the end of the teaching day at most secondary schools and you will see teachers struggling under the weight of a pile of books to their cars. Increase the school day and the piles of books they have to carry will grow even larger.
If we had our time again, Pam and I would have looked for jobs where we could walk out at the end of the working day with nothing to do until the next one. Jobs where a holiday meant just that – no marking and preparation for the next term – just a lazy time on the beach with the children and weekends were free time.