Criticism for plans to shorten school break

New head of Kingsbrook School,Deanshanger,Pamela Hutchison.'090908M-A192
New head of Kingsbrook School,Deanshanger,Pamela Hutchison.'090908M-A192

Education Secretary Michael Gove’s proposal to extend the school day and reduce the summer holidays has received a mixed reaction from school leaders in Northants.

Mr Gove told an education conference last week that he believed pupils in England should spend more hours at school each day and have shorter holidays, like many schools in eastern Asia.

But Gordon White, county secretary of the NUT, said there was “no evidence” that making the school day longer would improve results in the classroom.

He said: “Surveys we have commissioned show that teachers on average work 55 to 60 hours a week in term times and over the holidays are still averaging more than 45 hours a week.

“It is very glib to say that teachers and students have too long holidays, but what people don’t realise is the work that goes on during the holidays to support the classroom.”

Mr White said teachers already volunteered to run after-school clubs, but longer school days would see this goodwill disappear.

However, Pamela Hutchison, headteacher of Elizabeth Woodville School, in Deanshanger and Roade, said she was not against Mr Gove’s proposals and would like to see a new school holiday structure brought in.

She said: “There are patterns of school holiday which have been well researched, such as the five terms which involves four two-week holidays and one four-week holiday in the summer.

“But it would need to be introduced across the whole country at the same time, otherwise parents with children at different schools could have to deal with more holiday periods.

“In terms of lengthening the school day, it is always about getting the balance right between the amount of time the children are in school and the amount of time they can spend with their families,” she added.

Mr Gove said the current school timetable was out of date and was fit for the agricultural economy of the 19th century, where children had long summer holidays to help in the fields. He claimed the current system left pupils at a “significant handicap” compared to children in East Asian nations who benefited from extra tuition and support from teachers.

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