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There goes the summer

Neil Davenport

Topics Politics

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UK education secretary Michael Gove has introduced new powers enabling headmasters in state schools to set their own schools’ term times from 2015 onwards. The move could effectively extend school hours and reduce the long summer holidays currently enjoyed by pupils and teachers. Gove’s initiative is apparently designed to improve the academic attainment of pupils and boost the UK education system after years of it being outperformed by those of the UK’s economic rivals.

The connection between spending on education and economic output is one of those governmental myths that has long done the rounds in education-policymaking circles. Quite why countries that spend less on education than we do attain far greater levels of economic productivity is never properly explained by UK ministers. Equally, if longer term times really were the key to improved exam results, how come expensive private schools, which tend to have much longer holidays than comprehensives, achieve better results? Again, it seems, the government’s rationale is more than a little flimsy.

Then again, maybe the desire to keep children longer in schools has less to do with the economy or exam results and more to do with parents. After all, Gove has already expressed contempt for the biological rights of parents. He would surely love to see schools act in loco parentis on a bigger scale. By pushing schools to extend the teaching day, and by reducing the length of school holidays, the education department no doubt hopes that the ‘toxic’ out-of-school influence of parents can be kept to a minimum. Gove’s proposals will also allow schools to keep tabs on whether parents are following officialdom’s guidelines on ‘correct’ parenting. Indeed, long school holidays are recipes for all kinds of risks, injuries and accidents ‘waiting’ to happen. Far better, then, to keep allegedly vulnerable children indoors, in classrooms and away from playing fields, beaches, woods and their parents’ homes. Gove may be a free marketeer, but, like New Labour, he seems to believe in the nationalisation of parents and families.

Neil Davenport is a writer and sociology/politics teacher in London. He blogs at The Midnight Bell.

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Topics Politics

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