It's not often that I get a bee in my bonnet, politically speaking, but this has really got my goat...
Insurance millionaire Theodore Agnew has donated enough money to a school in Great Yarmouth to enable the school's year five and year six students to stay at school until 6pm every weekday (and when I said 'enable' - it's not an optional after-school club - it's timetabled education for every student). Not only that, but after October, the plan is for years three and four to join in as well - that's a 9-hour working day for a seven-year old (leaving them too exhausted to concentrate, and with barely enough time to eat tea before going to bed once they get home from school every day)! Read the story here. Michael Gove, this country's Education Secretary (who has never been a teacher, nor does he have children of his own, from what I can make out) has said this is a "brilliant idea"!!! I was temporarily rendered speechless by the sheer scale of this insanity. However, the speechlessness has worn off, so I figure "it's my blog and I'll rant if I want to"
What on earth is our society coming to? I mean, ok - not everyone has the ability or the desire to home educate. There are two types of parents apparently - those who breathe a sigh of relief when the school holidays are over and the children go back to school, and those (most home educators fit here) who miss their children while they're not at home. I'm definitely the latter, but I'm not passing judgement on the former type: it doesn't make me a better or worse parent - just a different one. But I think we all agree that children need their families. In most cases it's true that both parents need to work so they can afford the cost of living, and obviously most families arrange that so that the working hours of at least one parent fall inside school hours - not least because the cost of after-school care is extortionate, but also because as parents who love our children we know it's good for our children's sense of security and well-being to have time chatting with them about their day, helping them with homework, sharing a nutritious meal around the table, even - dare I say it - playing with them. And all I remember from our own school days was how frantic it all was, trying to fit it into the couple of hours I did have with them between the school-run and bedtime. Yet somehow Mr Agnew, Mr Gove and Mr Holledge (the headmaster at the school concerned) are all patting themselves on the back for providing a way for children to spend even more time away from their families! Michael Gove was quoted as saying, "It also helps parents, actually, making it easier for them to get promoted at work or move jobs in the town". How did our society ever get to the place where promotion was more important than family values? Have none of them ever heard of the famous quote, "On their deathbed, no one ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time with my business.'." The reasoning behind this quote is that we all know what matters far, far more than success in business is building strong family relationships, raising our children to be stable, well-rounded members of society. Research has repeatedly shown this to be so - a good example of this being the article, A Wise Investment: Benefits From Families Spending Time Together. Some, but not all, of the points raised cite sharing 'religious activities' together as being beneficial, but even if that doesn't apply to you (and I doubt it would impress Messrs Gove et al), the other points are still really pertinent. I was particularly drawn to the fourth point: "Children’s academic success is associated with having mothers who frequently communicated with them." That's mothers - not teachers or even well-meaning headmasters!!! Academic success is not down to children being segregated from their families and kept at school for longer hours so they can have horse-riding lessons!
This ludicrous scheme is apparently being so well-received because of the poverty of the area that the school is in. These supposedly educated men think that by taking already deprived children away from their families for even longer hours every day, they are somehow going to give them a better future. (For those of you who are wondering, yes I know there are some poor families where neglect and abuse mean that the child is deprived of the kind of family support that I'm talking about - but there are also some wealthy families where the same can be said - and anyway, that's a matter for the welfare system, not the education system.) As a society we need to be pouring money into building families, not giving them more reasons to spend time apart! David Cameron said he was going to invest in families as the "building blocks of a strong, cohesive society". Well, tell that to the Education Secretary!!! If we're serious about investing in familes, and we have parents who are so poor that they have to work a nine-hour day in order to survive, we need to be looking at better ways to support them in the family - and that's not by treating the children as a problem to be removed so that the parents can earn more money. Children need time at home with family - they do not need a 45-hour working week!!!
Rant over - for now ;)