Why I’m Not Signing the Petition Against Longer School Hours

Its not because I think teachers should work longer hours. 
How anyone has the energy to look after a room full of six year olds, then go home and carry on working, I will never know.

It’s not because I want my childrens’ academic progress to come before everything else in their lives (I don’t).

It’s not because I think most parents shouldn’t be trusted to bring up their children correctly and the state should take over (again, I don’t)

It’s certainly not because I am a big fan of Michael Gove or the current government (to be clear, dear internet, I’m not).

It’s not even that I agree with the scheme, if, as many people are saying it will mean compulsory 10 hour days for all children. 
Here are the reasons I will not join the 156,000+ people who have so far signed this particular petition:

Because it says longer schools hours would cut into time: “you are meant to be spending as a family”

and that “allowing mums to return back to work”  doesn’t make financial sense
(my emphasis)

Regardless of weather or not I agree with Gove’s plans, the sentiment of this petition seems clear:
Mothers are meant to be at home with their kids, they shouldn’t be allowed in the workplace.

Well I can’t sign up to that idea. Having Mum at home full time works brilliant for many families, I benefited from it myself as a child but what about the mums who have no choice but to work, just to make ends meet? Sure they are putting food on the table but they are meant to be at home? What about those who’ve spent years building careers or businesses? Should they jack it all in knowing they may never be able to return? What about the fathers who stay at home because their wives have greater earning power? Longer school hours would give them the chance to return to work too. But it’s only the Mothers who get a mention, it’s only Mum who is meant to have her life dictated to her. Heck, in that case what about the lesbian parents I know? They are all Mums – who is supposed to be earning in those families? Surely it doesn’t make financial sense for their households to live on benefits for want of a penis? Or perhaps the writers of this petition do not think that these loving and committed couples should be “allowed” children anyway. It seems they consider the only acceptable family unit to be Dad the breadwinner and Mum at home with the kids.

Ok I’m probably going beyond what the writers of this petition intended, I suspect they mean well but the whole thing comes across not just as a criticism of the plans but of any mother who works outside the home. Almost all families are just trying to do the best for their kids in whatever particular circumstances they find themselves.  Exactly who is it that decided what all families are  “meant to” do from 3.30-6pm, (on weekdays, in term time) anyway?
I’m not even sure what exactly Gove is proposing. I can’t find anything definite (please link to it in the comments if you have). I certainly would not agree with compulsory, 10 hour a day, academic drilling. But extended provision could be a great thing.The school could become a focal point for children’s activities. Many parents spend a lot of time and money ferrying kids to dance/sports/music lessons. If you have more than one kid it’s a logistical nightmare, if the class is at 4 pm and you work until 6 pm it’s impossible (oh I was forgetting, you’re not meant to be at work). Schools could offer many of these activities, all under one roof and government funding could make them accessible to all.

In reality most schools are already open far longer than the standard school day anyway. At my daughter’s school there is breakfast club from 8 am and after school club until 6 pm. These aren’t staffed by the teachers and they just about make it possible for parents to do a days work (so long as it pays enough to cover the fees). Personally I prefer to have my daughter stay in school on the days I work, I trust the school and it’s staff to keep her safe and happy. If school clubs weren’t available I’d simply have to find something elsewhere. But I’m lucky that I’m paid enough to afford it, many genuinely aren’t. I’m not saying all mums should work but government funding to allow them to make the choice? I don’t see that as a bad thing.

If it turns out that this really is a plan to introduce state control in all aspects of family life and to work our children to breaking point, to produce a nation of miserable, exam passing automatons then I’ll be right there signing petitions and a hell of a lot more. But not this petition. I still won’t agree that we should fight against these proposals by imposing on every family someone else’s unrealistic ideal of how they are “meant” to live their lives.

And now for the bit where I get petty.
Ok really petty.

If you are going to argue that kids shouldn’t have any more education – may I suggest that you at least do so with well constructed sentences? (I realise I may be sitting in a glass house here…)

family units have to work together from teaching right and wrong 
learning life skills to be a child not  an android in society
There are enough pressures on children from an early age and yet trying to impose more
These three form the penultimate paragraph, I've split them up to emphasise just how much they don't make sense
The writers also assert that the scheme would not be cost effective due to the additional expense to schools. Presumably they have access to a detailed economic assessment of these costs versus the potential gains from income tax paid by the many thousands of individuals who would return to work. Unfortunately the writers forgot to provide a link to this assessment. Which is a shame for Michael Gove. The current government isn't know for it's wild generosity to anyone without at least an earldom, Many of us may actually start liking them if they are planning to pour loads of money into childcare and kids clubs for struggling families. Or could it perhaps be that the writers need to stay behind after school for a few more maths lessons?
(I told you I was going to get petty)

5 responses to “Why I’m Not Signing the Petition Against Longer School Hours”

  1. You make all this boring drivel sound fun and interesting… Although I can't make use of these longer hours yet, in principle I agree, but I don't think it should be compulsory. Perhaps (especially in secondary education and somewhat in primary) there should be an option for staying at school later and or starting earlier – Then we could have an offset scheme so that you can take your kids out of school in term time so that you can go on holiday out of peak times! Any work missed can be made up (if necessary) in this extra time.

    This may seem like I am saying you need teachers to work longer hours – oh no i'm not – but many teachers stay late to work anyway and if school hours were extended perhaps teaching assistance could get extra hours to work (should they choose). Maybe we could employ more people (just an idea)!

    I went to a boarding school (as my parents worked abroad in a place offering no education to international workers after 11 years old) we had long school days. But after core hours the older students that were given responsibilities for overseeing Prep times (homework) and some activities (after school club equivalent). Could this not be a way of giving interested older students work experience (many of whom will have skills their teachers don't, such as sporting excellence, dance experience, theatrical abilities as well as those who are academically gifted and could teach others in peer to peer learning situations).

    I just think when you make a petition to stop something should at least give alternatives and thought to the situation

    I am a working mum – I earn little over the cost of childcare but enough to make it worthwhile. I would welcome a scheme to enable me to enrich my child's life with variety, enable me to earn more (relatively) and not penalize me because I can't afford, without claiming benefits, to do be a stay at home mum.


  2. Hi Thanks for commenting, I certainly wouldn't agree with compulsory longer hours and I can see why many people who have made sacrifices so they can be at home with their kids would be angry about that idea. I work part time and on my non working days I reclaim E from school at 3.30 prompt with some jealously that they have had her all day, I wouldn't want her there until 6 on those days and I know longer hours wouldn't be right at all for some kids/ families. But I think it should be an option for those who want/need it. In practice it already is in many schools anyway.

    Oh and It would be great if I could trade those extra hours for holidays in term time! MY GOD it's expensive to go away in the holidays. My husband would have to be able to trade in all his extra hours for term time holiday too though!


  3. I don't think the petition blurb is intelligently written, which is why I didn't link to it in my Britmums post. But I did sign it, because despite the biased writing, it's contributing to the wave of public horror over these proposals, and unless we make a collective noise about it, this is he kind of tho the government will slide into fact.

    We absolutely need affordable, reliable childcare


  4. Thanks for commenting. I absolutely agree that making longer hours compulsory would be a terrible thing. Personally I work part time and really value the days when I am able to pick my daughter up at 3.30

    However, I am yet to see what the government is actually proposing. I have only heard vague ideas at this stage and it occurred to me after writing this post that the wave of public horror could just give the government the perfect excuse to do nothing to help parents, especially mothers who want or need to work. The next time they are asked how they plan to improve equality in the work place or help poor families they can simply say that they offered and everyone said no.

    So, although I can see many potential problems and I understand why stay at home mums in particular are horrified, I won't be campaigning against the proposals until I actually know what they are, and certainly not by signing up to a campaign that implies all working mothers are doing something inherently wrong.


  5. Really interesting post … on a personal level, I feel very torn. I need, financially, to work and I want my daughter to see wonderful mums doing brilliant jobs but I desperately want to find a way to be there for my daughter from 3.30 every day when she starts school in September. More than anything because I want to give her the space for downtime and mucking around and doing her own thing and discovering her independence outside school hours. As with so many of these debates it is such a pity that it is cast in terms of extremes that don't help anyone.


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