The news at the moment in the world of education seems to be centred around the suggestion that it would be a good idea to lengthen the school day to counteract the numerous hours, days and months lost to Covid. Let me be quite clear in my view – no thank you; no benefit. I wonder where on earth these foolish ideas come from. There again, I have some ideas…
First of all it should be noted that the children have not lost the time so often stated. Do you remember how it was said that the children lost six months of learning from the initial lockdown? This was stated with the twist that they had not (most had not) been at school since mid-March. Take away half-term, Easter, half-term and summer. That amounts to ten weeks of the time; almost three months. It makes it sound much worse, doesn’t it? It also suggests that no work, planning or anything whatsoever was done in that time. That may well be the case for some children in some schools but it certainly was not the case for all. Many schools acted quickly and proactively found ways to engage and provide for their children.
Of course, the best place for the children to be for their education is at school. In that I do mean a physical school building with qualified teachers and friends to work on those social skills that are so important. That said however, unless there is a pretty serious illness or disease that eats away at previous learning, learning still takes place. Even with the worst ‘teachers’ in the world, children do learn – great teachers help learning be most beneficial and profound.
The idea of children spending more time at school is actually, in my opinion, child abuse. There is a limit to the amount of time you can spend on things before breaks are needed; too much of something can be counterproductive. Maybe this is known by the proposers and the real aim is to sort out free childcare to help with the economy. If that were the case, saying so and being honest would help. People may even think of better ways to sort it. It could even be that the proposers want to have a go at the teaching profession because some unions fought for things that many of us considered silly. Whatever the reasons, the idea is a poor one.
When people make suggestions that the days should be longer and the holidays shorter, have they even started to consider what the current situation across the country is? There are schools that already start the official school day at 08:00. Some schools finish at 14:45, some at 15:15 and some at 15:45 – maybe even later. Beyond the official start and finish times and varying length of the lunch hour, many schools already offer extra-curricular activities, every night, weekends and more. Prior to covid we offered between 30 and 40 clubs, with some going on to 17:00. These were offered by staff, free of charge and across the age ranges. I’d argue the offer was exceptional, valued and better than any official push or directive to go longer. All that forcing it on schools will do is result in less, with dampened interest and a few other negatives too.
Back to the probable reason to suggest the silly plan – fill in the gaps for the ‘year’ of lost learning. That is how it will be sold. That is the message the voters will hear from the clever candidates. It is not yet a year and in that time, so much has been developed. Children have become so much more independent and have learnt very quickly things that they would never have done. Arguably, dealing with covid and the requirements of remote learning have actually better prepared children for the future. They can now independently take the provided prompts, ideas, suggestions and remote direction and have learnt to learn themselves, independently. Given a chance I think they will do better in life because of it. I am not saying this is the case for all; those that have been given nothing or very little, will have struggled and will be further behind. It isn’t a race though and those whose schools have provided, will have facilitated amazing learning opportunities.
So extra-time for our learners? I say very strongly “No”. They do not need it and great schools will very quickly get the children back to where they can and should be. They’ll do it quickly, helped by the skills that the children will have learnt; the independence developed and the appreciation of being able to be at school.