School for 45 weeks? You’re having a laugh.

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So last week I had a rare night out, and on the way home on the train, I spotted discussion of a proposal to extend school times to 45 hours a week, 45 weeks a year.

I assumed this was a joke.

Amazingly, it isn’t. I bought the Sun a couple of days later (for the Lidl voucher, I don’t read it!) and was very surprised to discover that they had a poll in the paper, supposedly with a majority of respondents supporting this proposal.

It’s hard to know where to start with this. I know that as a home educator people wonder why I’m interested at all, but as I’ve said several times I’m not actually anti school, it just isn’t the right solution for us at the moment. And if these changes come in, it never will be. I also suspect that home education would suddenly become a whole lot more popular!

The thing that never seems to get raised in these discussions is what the point of education/school (the two are not synonyms) should be. It’s assumed that it’s obvious, it has to be a good thing, we all know what it’s for and what the aim is. And yet, I’m not convinced we do.

Yes, all children should have access to education. Education that is suitable for their age/ability/aptitude? I think that’s a pretty good phrasing. I’m not sure how many schools live up to that target – I don’t see how they can when the first thing they do is split children up by age with no regard for the ability or aptitude aspects.

Look at the furore about the suggested baseline testing. You know that this means children who are just 4 will end up compared against children who are nearly 5. It’s just daft. Children develop so much, and also, so unevenly, at that sort of age. Just like growth spurts, you get developmental leaps in all sorts of areas. And our traditional school model isn’t set up to cope with that. (You’re also going to get people preparing their children for the test – nurseries boasting that their children do particularly well and so on. The nursery my daughter was at prided itself on how school ready the children were. Which wasn’t what I was sending her for, I wanted her to be happy having fun, learning would happen naturally alongside. )

What is our education system set up to do? Many schools have to follow the national curriculum. But the contents of this are politically dictated, subject to the whims of the education secretary of the time. These are not usually people who have been through the schools they carp about. They have little if any experience in teaching. Michael Gove regularly displays his complete ignorance of both how schools work and how children learn, making sweeping statements with little if any relevance to reality. (Does he really think that state schools don’t have extra curricular activities, no choirs, no D of E? Also, does he really think that state schools can match independent schools without the same funding??)

Why do we expect that all schools should look the same and naturally cater for all children? All children aren’t the same. Some are best in groups, while others prefer to be more independent. Some are book learners, some hands on. Some children read early, some later, and trying to cram words in ever earlier just sets more and more children up to fail.

If this kind of suggestion from government got us talking about what we want and need out of our education system, then that would be a good thing. Education isn’t something that should be done *to* us or our children, we should all be active partners. Let’s have that discussion instead.

About Jax Blunt

I'm the original user, Jax Blunt I've been blogging for ten years, give or take, and if you want to know me, read me :)

Comments

  1. I have lots and lots of thoughts on this topic – too many to put in one comment! And there are so many brilliant blogs that I may have to link to you all. I loved your old post asking what is the point of school, and what you say here about different learning styles – those things would never have occurred to me before I had a child with aspergers x
    looking for blue Sky recently posted…The Alternative Blog AwardsMy Profile

    • That is part of the problem isn’t it? We do tend to accept that what is being done is so because it’s right, whereas actually it’s often just the way it’s always been done.

  2. This fills me with dread, I know how much my children need the holidays to rest and relax and when all my children were in private education we all loved the very long school holidays. It seems to me that all family values are being stripped…to want to actually bring your own children up and spend time with them is becoming a ‘crime’. There is going to be a fall out somewhere in years to come if this happens.

    • I think we’re getting very close to a breaking point. This is completely the wrong way for education to be going.

  3. I’m really shocked you’ve said that the poll saw majority of people supporting it. I’d naively assumed that most people would think this appalling and it wouldn’t happen, but now maybe I do need to look at home educating, as there’s no way my (yet to start school) kids are doing this.

    • Jax Blunt says:

      I think it was 45 to 37 so not big numbers but still a positive majority. Could swing either way with the don’t knows though.

  4. Very interesting post. You make so many valuable points. Like Blue Sky I have plenty of thoughts on Irish education too! I also particularly liked your 2nd last paragraph about learning styles.

    xx Jazzy

    • Jax Blunt says:

      Thanks. I am increasingly realising that different learning styles are completely overlooked in our current system.

  5. I’ve been fairly dumbfounded by some of the comments I’ve seen for this proposal, which, quite frankly, horrifies me.

    That said, I’ve seen more than a few people saying that if such a suggestion became a reality, that they’d home ed – and the implications of that also worry me a bit, because if there was a mass exodus towards home-ed, what then?

    I have to work quite hard to quell the strong inclination towards believing the government would be happy to take our children at pretty much birth all the better to indoctrinate them into what they want from the ‘perfect citizen’ – but that’s over-simplifying my actual thoughts on it.

    I believe that the current system of schooling does need a complete overhaul, but in a very different direction from that which Gove is suggesting!

  6. Gah, ‘which’ should probably be ‘that’. Ack.

  7. You know me Jax, and how I feel about *that* man and his idiotic policies. A great post. I understand there are many more announcements to follow this week; more to blog on, and pull hair out because of, etc, etc, etc. Thinking of starting a mass tweeting campaign to Cameron asking him whether he thinks he’ll get elected again if he has Gove (and IDS for that matter) in his cabinet….

Trackbacks

  1. […] Wilcockson is his usual sublime self with an allegorical tale of how education could be. My chum Jax wonders where the heck a 45 week year will take us. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Blog after […]

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