It’s been quite a while since I have written about education. With the thought of maternity leave looming and the chance to spend close to 12 months out of schools I have been pushing most work related thoughts to the back of my mind. But then there was the budget yesterday, and with it the latest way to “improve” education. Let’s leave the news that every school must be an Academy by 2020 for a minute (that’s a whole other blog post in itself), but focus on the scrapping of the “Victorian” 3:30pm school home time. Sigh!
Mr Osborne would like to increase funding to provide an additional five hours (I’m assuming one each day) for extra lessons or extra-curricular activities. Initially he is offering funding for up to 25% of schools for this to happen, but as with most things in education once a few schools start the rest will inevitably follow. He claims this will help working parents, that this will improve standards and whilst the former may be true I fail to see how it helps the latter. I would love to invite Mr Osborne to come and sit in on my Year 11 class last lesson on a Tuesday, the words blood and stone spring to mind and the thought of having to have another lesson after that would be soul destroying.
Quite simply after 5 hours of lessons children have had enough. They are children, they are tired and an extra hour on top of the school day is not some magic solution to improve results in this country. More does not necessarily mean better!
I can see how longer days would help working parents, but schools are not there to provide a babysitting service and shouldn’t be viewed as such. They are there to educate the future generation. I am a working parent, as are a lot of teachers, and adding an extra hour to the end of an already jam-packed day will have a huge impact on the already dubious work-life balance.
I can already hear the pro-argument that these hours will be something extra, you will get paid overtime for them, they won’t be compulsory. With the demise of Local Authority control the school day is at the discretion of individual academies. For several years my school has made it compulsory that all staff must provide at least one hour of enrichment (for the vast majority of us these are extra revision lessons) a week. Whilst that may be only once a week, by the time you have a meeting after school, and a parents evening, and a detention duty it is not uncommon to have at least three nights a week taken up.
There will no doubt be the usual complaints that teachers are lazy, and resisting change again. In most other jobs they have to work until 4:30 or 5pm or even later so why shouldn’t they? The teachers reading this will be thinking, if only I finished work at 5pm. The reality is that the school day of 8:30-3:30 is only a small fraction of our working day, and it is getting smaller. Once the pupils leave at the end of the school day the admin that begins is becoming increasingly unmanageable. The planning, marking, emails, tracking, intervention involved in the job is unsustainable and is the reason that teachers are leaving in huge numbers,
Most teachers love being in the classroom, I do, it’s the reason I stay in the job, but the work load is crazy. Most teachers want to do the very best for their students and it is becoming increasingly frustrating that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do this. Placing another hour at the end of the school day increases the planning and marking involved in the job whilst reducing the time you have to do the preparation required.
I often think back to when I started teaching 14 years ago. A lot has changed and the pressure and workload is increasing every year. Am I a better teacher for all of this? This is an easy question to answer, No. I have less time to research interesting and exciting lessons, I am more exhausted in front of classes and the time I have to spend with pupils is diminishing because there are quite simply too many other things to do. Sad, but true.
Schools educate, teachers teach and children need time to be children. They don’t want to be at school until 5 o’clock every day, they want to chat with their friends, be silly, have time to be themselves, to find out what their interests are. Over the past few years I have seen too many children struggle to cope with the educational demands that they are facing, more time in school is the last thing they need.
As a parent I want teachers who are enthusiastic and energetic with my children, not over-worked, exhausted, disillusioned individuals who once believed that they could make a difference to a child’s life.
Schools don’t raise children, families do.