Paul Kirkby, former head of policy development at Number 10, has set the bloggersphere alight today with a personal post recommending that schools should provide a 45 hour a week, 45 days a year service. Why does he think this is a good idea?
- It will help parents struggling to balance work and childcare
- It will give children extra time to catch up with international peers (the equivalent of 7 years’ additional education in fact)
- It relieves time pressure on teachers
As a parent I have a bit of cognitive dissonance around this. Yes, longer school hours would help with childcare and perhaps allow me to go back to full-time. Yay. But I think Mr. Kirkby is being presumptuous thinking that this would be an automatic vote winner with parents. I don’t want my children to have to spend longer days in school. I see how tired my son is after a regular length day. I see how exhausted he is getting by the end of a half term. He needs the break. And to be honest, I already made the decision to sacrifice a portion of my salary and to put my career on ice so that I could spend more time with my children. The privilege of their company is kind of why I had them.
I read a rather lovely blog post earlier about what could be done with the extra hours to turn this into a real positive – with a focus on the cultural and the pastoral. However this relies on having the manpower and expertise to resource it, otherwise it just becomes your standard after-school club with the added disadvantage of over-crowding.
Now – here’s a bit of self-interested thinking for you. If you want to help ‘stressed’ parents, why not make it easier for mums and dads to buy extra holiday, make companies offer family friendly days so that we don’t have to use up our paltry holiday allowance on sick days. My husband and I live with the threat of chicken pox hanging over our heads by a thread. One confirmed case at our daughter’s nursery and we’re into disaster planning. “I’m in a meeting on Thursday morning, but I could take the afternoon off, and work from home on the following Tuesday if you can do the rest…” Make it easier for us to do childcare as well as being productive citizens of the workplace – or give mums extra help to get back into the workplace after an extended career break to make that more of a viable option. Emotively, I feel that a policy that allows me to work more but at the expense of time with my children fails to understand that many parents would like to see just the opposite occur.