Will longer school days impact badly on family life? Great Yarmouth parents divided on plans to extend academy school day.

Janet Downs's picture
“I think it’s a brilliant idea. The longer students spend in school the better they will do,” commented Mr Gove about the decision by Greenacre Primary School in Great Yarmouth to extend the school day to up to 6pm for older pupils when the school becomes an academy. Attendance would be compulsory. A free after-school club would be available on request for younger pupils whose parents were concerned about making two journeys to collect children.

Mr Gove was enthusiastic, “It also helps parents, actually, making it easier for them to get promoted at work or move jobs in the town and I think it’s absolutely fantastic that the new headteacher there wants to spend time with the students and help them to do better.” Yet pupils in England already spend more hours in school than the average for OECD countries.

Bill Holledge, the school’s head, believes the extra hours will benefit pupils. However, parents have raised concerns on the Great Yarmouth Mercury website about the qualifications of those supervising enrichment or homework.

Not all parents are happy. 130 signed a petition against the move fearing the extra enforced hours would prevent children from doing other activities and would leave them exhausted. Others felt the school was being patronizing – it serves a disadvantaged area and some parents felt the school was saying it would be better for the children to stay in school than be with their own families.

The consultation documents for academy conversion were not all the same. The parents’ consultation (downloadable here) gave little information apart from describing academies as “publicly-funded independent schools that strive to provide a first-class education for all pupils” (as if non-academies don’t also do the same thing). It said the governors had agreed unanimously and that the academy would have a sponsor, Theodore Agnew, Chairman of Norfolk Community Foundation and non-executive member of the Department for Education. Mr Agnew is also millionaire donor to the Conservative party, trustee of right-wing think-tank Policy Exchange and trustee of the New Schools Network.

It’s unclear why the school decided to produce different consultation papers and why some contained more information than others. The parents’ consultation had no information about proposed changes to the school day – that was in the public consultation document.

This situation raises important questions especially when combined with Sir Michael Wilshaw’s call that teachers in disadvantaged areas should act as surrogate parents and be willing to work beyond the school day, at weekends and during holidays in order to keep children away from “unsupportive parents.” The questions raised are these:

1 How far should the state take over the role of parents?

2 Is it legal for schools to insist that children spend more hours at school than required by law?

3 What penalties would be given to parents who removed their child from school at, say, 3.30pm?

4 How far should teachers be expected to heal society’s ills?

As the Independent’s leader said – the balance can tip too far. Consideration should also be given to alleviating poverty and providing youth services.

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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 12/07/2012 - 22:53

I spend a lot of time chatting to parents of young children who go to a wide variety of schools.

The constant complaint is that there children are too tired and are doing far too much too young.

Many want their children to go to school less and of course in reception class they can but then they miss stuff and the whole experience is disjointed.

We've got these tiny four year olds being bundled into full time education despite what their parents clearly want and can see is right for their children and it's madness.

And that's without these ludicrous long days.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 07:19

The prospect of cheap or even free care until 6pm is very interesting to most working parents however on the days when my children do that they are extremely tired. Our family policy is for no more than three days a week spent in after school stuff so my partner and I both work 4 days a week in order to give our family a balance. We have talked about my partner going back 5 days but I think that will only happen when our youngest is in year 3 and can handle 4 days after school club/childminder. Even so I dont like the idea at all and think this should be optional. Where do the after school playdates fit in, the after school dance lessons, swimming lessons, everyone all going to the park after school in the lighter evenings, etc. Not to mention the trips to the dentist, the doctor, trips to buy new shoes, going round the supermarket ( again another real life learning opportunity) and generally experiencing ones local environment with their parents.
This is much too stringent, and in my mind, barmy. The school however should be free to offer free alternative education to those parents who want it when they want it and not make it compulsory.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 07:21

Oh, yes, what happens to the teachers workload and when do they hold their afterschool team meetings, lesson planning meetings, meetings with parents, and of course what time will they get home to see their own children and families!

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 07:43

"Speaking on a recent visit to Norwich, Mr Gove told the Mercury: “I think it’s a brilliant idea. The longer students spend in school the better they will do."

That's from 1st July this year - more than two years into the job!!!!! Normally SoSs for education stop dropping these howlers pretty quickly because they either understand children themselves or are well advised by people who do. But Gove fired all the people who understand children and education....

Joanne Tisdall's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 07:43

I expect Gove to announce a compulsory return to sending children up chimneys very soon.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 07:47

Proper work experience rather than any of this silly stuff is year 11. :-)

Has work experience in year 11 been fully abolished or is it just optional but unresourced with no Connections now?

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 10:55

Work experience is not compulsory. The latest guidelines are below but will be out-of-date when the government changes the statutory framework.

A recent TES/Education and Employers Taskforce survey (TES 6 July 2012) reported that 28% of schools surveyed planned to restrict work experience to pupils aged 16+, 7% planned to restrict it to the lowest-achieving pupils, 11% were planning to stop it all together, 22% planned to support worked experience for those who wanted to do them, 15% planned to support work experience placements only for pupils studying particular subjects or qualifications, 17% were classified as "Other".

So 83% of schools surveyed were planning changes to their work experience programme. Perhaps under the heading "other" were the options "make no changes" or "continue to offer it as a compulsory part of our careers education programme".



Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 11:44

Thanks Janet. I say a critique of Alison's Wolf's proposals to abolish work experience and they were damning. The appropriate level of insight into the issue and examination of evidence seem to have been replaced by the conclusion that her children and their friends hadn't found it useful.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 17:24

Rebecca - have you got a link to the critique. I'd very much like to read it.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 17:39

Janet it's not on a website. Is there a way of contacting you so I could send you a copy? I'm easy to find on linkedin. If not I could try and extract salient points and share them here.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 18:01

Rebecca - a short summary here would be useful. You could perhaps start another thread.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 15/07/2012 - 18:50

The proposal to remove work related learning form KS4 came from Alison Wolf's report on vocational education.

Here are some criticisms of what she said:
Firstly she claimed that "Fewer and fewer employers are willing to accommodate young people under 16 on their premises". The evidence clearly contradicts this - the Education Business Parnerships linked 404,000 employers with schools and colleges in 2009/10 of which 60,000 were new links. Prof Wolf contradicts this evidence due to her own chats with some headteachers. She accepted that she was wrong when questioned by the education select committee in April 2011.

Then she claims "the paperwork associated with placements has increased
exponentially." She was questioned about this by the select committee and admitted that this comment came from her perception that insurance is an issue. In fact it is not an issue as young people on work experience are covered by standard employer liability insurance policies.

She also claimed that most young people do not find work experience useful. She admitted to the select committee that this comment had be based on her asking her childrens' friends. She ignored the IPSOS Mori survey which found that 84% of students found work experience helpful in assisting them in working out what they wanted to do in the future.

She went on to claim that work experience is very expensive- a comment which seems to have been based on some back of an envelope calculations she made up as she went along and which ignore the reality that LAs or the EBP tend to provide the service of organising placements and providing all the relevant resources and support for business and students for around £55-£80 per placement.

It seems that Prof Wolf's report showed that she didn't understand the purposes of work experience and her level of research was atrocious - she systematically ignored the evidence and replaced it with her opinion. I don't know if you've seen her live in action Janet but it would be fair to say that she has very strong opinions which she presents with the steely determination of Madam Hooch. How the heck she got the title professor given the quality of this work heaven only knows.

Anyway - that's why it's been shut down. Because Gove likes Wolfs and despite the evidence.

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