Friday, 19 April 2013

Should School Holidays Be Reduced?



Michael Gove wants to reduce the length of holidays in English schools.  He has also suggested the school day could be extended and the combination would improve performance and make life easier for working parents.

English (and Scottish) school holidays seem on a par with many Europeans countries but would his proposals produce the results he desires?

In his statement he said the school system hd been designed for a 19th century agricultural economy and risked leaving British children trailing those in Asia.  Children in Singapore seem to have slightly fewer holidays but similar formal teaching time, although the government does not stipulate operational hours for schools.

Of course Mr Gove's proposals will come to nothing.  The teaching unions will see to that.  Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers responded to his proposals:

"Teachers and pupils already spend longer hours in the classroom than most countries and also have some of the shortest summer holidays," she said.
"Independent schools in England and Wales, which often break for two weeks more during the summer and have longer holidays at other times of the year than their state counterparts, do not apparently feel the need to change and are apparently not suffering from their reduced hours."

I found here comment rather interesting. Ms Blower usually does tend to use independent schools in a negative manner, but in this case she mentions them to support her statement that state school teachers work longer hours in the classroom than their independent school peers.

Michael Gove wants standards in state schools to improve.  Ms Blower doesn't appear to see the anomaly in her remark.  It's generally accepted most independent schools provide a higher quality of education than some state schools.  If that wasn't the case then independent schools would be out of business.  She appears to accept that private schools, even with longer holidays than state schools, continue to produce good quality education and she bases that upon class-teaching time. 

We're all aware that independent schools offer a much wider education because class-teaching time is only part of a pupil's day. A great amount of work is done outwith the classroom and state schools are unable to provide this.

Will Michael Gove manage to push through his proposals?  Of course not.  The teaching unions will see to that.

I've put a wee poll in the sidebar as I think slightly shorter school holidays would help families by saving them even one week's school holiday childcare costs.

19 comments:

tris said...

One of the reasons that the summer holidays are so long is that it gives "hard working families up and down the country" a wider space in which to take their holidays, so that they can get away together.

I see no reason why they can't take a week off Christmas or Easter holidays.

Mind you, from the teachers' point of view, it would be fair to say that a fair amount of their workload takes place outside the classroom, and outside the school day.

And from the pupils' point of view, a good amount of homework is done outside of school hours.

MPs' holidays should be reduced considerably. Perhaps that would give them time to consider legislation a bit more carefully. Not that I suppose it would make any difference. They vote the way they are told to by and large. But at least we might feel that we were getting a slightly better deal for our money.

On the other hand, the house of lords could quite reasonably operate for about 5 days a year, thereby saving us a vast amount in "expenses" and subsidised food and booze.

English Pensioner said...

School hours appear to be shorter these days. I used to have to be at school by 8:40 for assembly and we were in class from 9:00 to 12:30 and 1:30 to 4:00 with ten minute breaks in the morning and afternoon.
We only left our class-rooms for physics, chemistry and PE, with the teachers otherwise coming to us, minimising changeover time. Now the buses are still arriving at the local high school at 9:00 and loading at 3:30. Pupils seem to be wandering around town at all times, presumably because they don't have a lesson. Certainly holidays seem longer now, maybe not that much more, but a week at half term rather than the couple of days that we had, plus of course all the training days, etc.
The younger children up to 11 work shorter hours so that they leave before the High School to avoid traffic congestion (few actually walk!)
Getting back to the hours of the fifties would be a good start.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

This is one subject I would like to hear the pupils views on before I delivered a comment.

For the old fogies amongst us the world and its values have changed and often memory lane nudges the belief that these changes are not all for the better.

But for today's pupils these memories have no relevance. Their memories are short, subsidiary recollections to their day by day experience and their future expectations.

What do we know of these - other than the cliché of - what do you hope to be when you grow up?

Perhaps to paraphrase Kennedy we should ask - not what they have done at school today but what they would want their school to do for them.

To my mind the creation of interest is the key to education and the development of understanding; and, to that end, quality of time and its use is far more important than quantity. It is highly possible for the enhanced quality to result in a voluntary increase in the quantity of effort invested.

Let's hear what the kids have got to say about schools and learning, holidays and so forth. After all's said and done it is they who will have to live with it and form a life within it.

Macheath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Macheath said...

Sorry - I've counted to ten and am now slightly calmer!

I'm trying to work out whether ms Blower is being deliberately obtuse or genuinely lacks any sense of proportion.

If I may reiterate something I said about independent schools at a past post of yours,

The working week runs from 8am on Monday to 6pm on Saturday with several Sunday events every year as well - that's why the holidays are comparatively long.

Somehow, I can't see the more militant unions getting enthusiastic about bringing this culture into state schools...


Personally, I think it's all to do with childcare and potentially reducing the tax credits - I can't for a moment imagine that someone as sensible as Gove really thinks there is much to be achieved by forcing reluctant pupils (and staff!) into hot, stuffy classrooms for extra time in the summer; apart from anything else, the prosecutions for truant and unauthorised holiday absences would be a nightmare.

Hamish said...

My personal experience is that I loathed school until the final two years and always felt a sinking feeling as the summer holidays drew to an end. In the last two years, I gained the courage to treat the teachers as equals. Some could cope with that; some couldn't.
For a period in my career, I became a teacher, in a university.
I knew the stuff, but failed to engage the students who would gossip or fall asleep. Until the Prof, a dear now departed friend, said to me: Hamish, lecturing is a branch of show business, get out there and give a performance.
Not a question of dumbing down, just livening up.

tris said...

Hamish. I couldn't agree more. I've taught too, and I treated every class as a show. There was always plenty of laughter in my classes, often students laughing at me and then each other, but all in fun.

I remembered how dreary some lessons were when I was at school/uni and how other ones were look forward to occasions. I learned from good and bad teaching I had received.

Kids are human and no one likes being bored. And there is no reason to bore people to death with your subject.

I loved my subject (French) and they learned to love it too, because it was a laugh a minute.

I never, not once, had any kind of discipline problem, and my students by and large did very well in exams without having to cram.

If you can do that with French... verbs, conjugations, grammar, subjunctives!!!!... you can do it with anything.

tedioustantrums said...

Negativity from pupils is endemic in education. I can't see what their views would bring to the party as it were, however there might be a way.

What if schools were open everyday of the year from 7:00 until 9:00? Lessons, like lectures at the big unis would be repeated say three times a month or more at different times. Students could choose when to go to school as long as they completed the necessary lessons each week/month.

Teachers could have normal working hours and also choose when to do them which would contain ALL the work they do.

But what about parents and work? School is not a childminding service. If parents needed childminding it could be carried out at school and if schools were open longer and at weekends it might be much easier to look after children.

What's not to like? I know people will have negatives.

Lets be positive shall we? Greater flexibility in attending school could stop the holiday costs rip off. Different start points for students would ease congestion. Fewer school buildings would be required saving vast amounts of money. Illness would no longer impinge on course work.

As the man who was responsible for the Curriculum for Excellence said he should have gone for revolution rather then evolution. Maybe Mr Gove should consider that as a starting point also?

tedioustantrums said...

Negativity from pupils is endemic in education. I can't see what their views would bring to the party as it were, however there might be a way.

What if schools were open everyday of the year from 7:00 until 9:00? Lessons, like lectures at the big unis would be repeated say three times a month or more at different times. Students could choose when to go to school as long as they completed the necessary lessons each week/month.

Teachers could have normal working hours and also choose when to do them which would contain ALL the work they do.

But what about parents and work? School is not a childminding service. If parents needed childminding it could be carried out at school and if schools were open longer and at weekends it might be much easier to look after children.

What's not to like? I know people will have negatives.

Lets be positive shall we? Greater flexibility in attending school could stop the holiday costs rip off. Different start points for students would ease congestion. Fewer school buildings would be required saving vast amounts of money. Illness would no longer impinge on course work.

As the man who was responsible for the Curriculum for Excellence said he should have gone for revolution rather then evolution. Maybe Mr Gove should consider that as a starting point also?

Furor Teutonicus said...

ONE of the purposes behind schools, is to prepare one for "working life".

If you get six weeks "holiday" over summer, how the HEL is that purpose achieved?

(UNLESS you want to be a teacher, of course!)

subrosa said...

Good point Tris. If holidays were shortened then perhaps education departments wouldn't be so difficult about letting children have a week off for family holidays. It would stop the rip off from holiday companies too.

I certainly agree about MPs' holidays and the Lords.

subrosa said...

That happens here too EP, pupils around the town at all hours of the day. Holidays are longer. We used to get a week at Christmas (Christmas wasn't a public holiday here until the 60s).

subrosa said...

I will try and get some youngsters' opinions Crinkly.

subrosa said...

Macheath, It's good to see Ms Blower using the private sector to make her point though. :) Some boarding schools have lessons on Sundays and if not then they have organised activities. Private schools teach motivation, something that lacks in some state schools.

subrosa said...

Did you enjoy it then Hamish? I enjoyed school but never wanted to be a teacher, although I have the qualifications. My mother was a teacher and perhaps it was the thought of ever having to work with her. :)

subrosa said...

Good ideas TT. Maybe you could write a post on them and we could comment. Let me know if you do and I'll let my readers know.

subrosa said...

I'm showing my age now but in Germany the wee ones had longer holidays than the older ones. Maybe it's changed now FT.

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX I'm showing my age now but in Germany the wee ones had longer holidays than the older ones. Maybe it's changed now FT. XX

Not at all Gnädige Frau!

NOT having being at school here, I MAY be wrong, but I think you are correct.... If that makes sense(?)

HOWEVER! They are changing that now, and schools have the same hours as British schools. Although not in all cities/States.

subrosa said...

Interesting FT, thanks.

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