The Prompt Week 4


‘Lengthen school days and cut holidays, says former Tory Advisor’ The Guardian (online) 29 Jan 2014

OK so for those of you who don’t know the above suggestion was made by someone who no longer works in government and who aired his thoughts on his own blog.

The main thrust of his argument seems to be the desire to woo Tory voters by giving mums who currently stay at home or work part time the opportunity to banish their childcare money worries and launch themselves back into full time work whilst their kids receive free childcare sorry, ‘better education’.

He’s looked at the education system in South Korea where academic outcomes excel, and children spend up to 12 hours a day at school on any given day.

He suggests that teachers will like his proposal because it should make for a less pressured environment. (Apparently teachers wouldn’t lose out on holiday because there would be some sort of holiday staggering scheme in place).

He argues that more time at school would lead to an extended curriculum and give children a greater breadth of educational experiences.

Personally I find this to be incredibly cynical and I do not believe that children, particularly infant schoolers, would be able to cope with that amount of time in an institutional setting.

And what of precious time together as a family? I thought the Tories were supposed to believe in family values but surely this suggestion flies in the face of that notion?

I cannot speak for the opinion of teachers on this matter, but as a part-time, flexi-worker and mother I have to wonder whether Paul Kirby ( the former Tory advisor in question) may secretly err on the side of the resentment that can sometimes be a by-product in the workplace. After all its not uncommon for some full time workers (often men) to see ‘flexible working’ as some sort of reward to those who they may feel don’t deserve it. The idea seems to be that you clock off early and jaunt off to put your feet up while they are left to do your work for you. In the back of their minds they’re thinking “how is this fair? I could be off fishing now!”.

The plain fact of the matter is that looking after small children and running a household is damn hard work. But that’s not to say that it isn’t rewarding and enjoyable – there would be hardly any point in having children if you just counted down the days til you could pack them off to the nearest comprehensive and rush joyously back into a full time office job. Not everyone has the great fortune to love their job with a passion and not everyone would put financial gain above the love, interaction with, and enjoyment of their family. One can only imagine what they would witness if they were a fly on the wall of the average South Korean home. Land of Smiles? Oh no, sorry, that’s Thailand.

As others have suggested perhaps more flexible working schemes and more affordable, and crucially, optional, before and after school clubs are what’s needed. As a nation I feel we need to re-evaluate what really matters – because surely it isn’t high academic achievement and maximum earnings at the cost of happiness, leisure, rest and family life?