Wednesday, 28 August 2013

It seems that the need of parents

are once again being considered more important than the needs of their children.
There was a serious suggestion in the press several days ago that the school day should be lengthened - to accommodate the needs of working parents.
The idea was that children would be at school between 8:30am and 5:00pm. They would do their homework there and have their other after school activities there. That way their parents would not need to care for them until after 5:00pm and they would not need to supervise homework.
Oh, there was supposed to be an advantage for the children too. They would  have everything finished by 5:00pm. The "pressure" they feel would no longer exist because, when they were picked up, that would be an end to their working day.
This seems muddled thinking to me. Many children are already in extended day care at school. There is nothing to stop these things happening already. The real question is whether school hours need to be extended.
The local state schools start at around 8:45am (secondary) and 9:00am (primary) and finish at 2:30pm (for the first year of school) or 3:30pm. The fee paying schools tend to start earlier and finish later. The Whirlwind's first class starts at 8:45 but she has to be in her form room at 8:30am. She finishes at 4:00pm. There is also supervision for preparation until the mid-secondary years after which the girls can stay behind and work if they wish to do so and their teachers are available until 5:00pm. If not called upon they use that time for their own preparation. It is what the parents are paying hefty fees for. I believe the other fee paying schools have similar arrangements.
But out in rural areas children often need to travel long distances too and from school. My father ran a very big rural school where one of the bus runs (and buses were driven by teachers) started at 7:20am. The smallest children would fall asleep on the way home. It was a very long day for them. When the children reached home they would have farm duties as well as homework. 
Starting the school day earlier in an area like that simply would not work.
But I also wondered at the other reasoning. This was not about making things easier for the child. It was about making things easier for the working parents. It was about allowing them to hand over yet more parenting responsibilities to others. They would not need to supervise "homework" or sport or ballet or music lessons. Someone else would take that on.  Some grandparents already do a great deal of that but at least they might be able to watch the progress a child was making and take a personal interest in what they are doing.  Other grandparents are still working,
Like my concerns yesterday about parents not being able to attend school events this seems to be another area where the many consequences of having both parents in paid work seems not to have been considered. Having both parents work is nothing new. It has happened right through history but it is where and how they work and the type of community we live in which has changed. Without the "village" or "local" environment in which to be cared for some children seem to lead lives which are regulated almost entirely by the needs and desires of their parents rather than having a balance between the two.
Perhaps it is why some children feel so isolated?


Sue Bursztynski said...

There was talk in Victoria about staggering the school day for - get this! - making the roads and public transport situations easier! And it's true that a lot of parenting responsibilities are being handed over to teachers, many of whom are parents themselves. Things such as "values", for example. You don't need to be at home all day to do that for your children. The curriculum is already overcrowded, but somehow there are letters to the papers regularly, demanding that this or that should be "taught in the SCHOOLS!" :-(

I work in the state system. We look after our kids as best we can and we do plenty after school and take responsibility for what happens on the way to or from school. Only today I heard the vice principal speaking to a student about bullying he had done on the way home from school.

Judy Edmonds said...

I've never believed in 'outsourcing' parental responsibilities! Children should not be treated like left luggage. Teachers do a fantastic job but too many parents rely on schools to be almost full-time surrogate parents, which is an inappropriate role for teachers. If a child is lacking in parents, or only has one parent that has to work full-time, they certainly do need other adults in their lives (actually all children do, just not as surrogate parents).