Saturday, 23 July 2016

So you want a longer school day?

Really?  And, presumably, a fifty-two week school year to go with it. The grandparents can care for your little darlings while you go away on holiday of course.
Excuse my sarcasm. I was talking to my aunt yesterday. My aunt is not that much older than me. She married a man twenty  years older than herself. Because of the age difference they made a conscious decision not to have children. It isn't something she regrets.
She was telling me her sister, a little older still, was exhausted because she  had been caring for her grandchildren during the school holidays.  I have also noted the exhaustion on the faces of local grandparents who have had the responsibility of their grandchildren over the past two weeks. 
It happens every holiday. During term time, unless a child is sick, grandparents get at least part of the day free of school age children. Some are unfortunate enough to have preschool age children to care for on a regular basis but "at least the others are at school" - as has been put to me more than once.
Grandparents may appreciate a longer school day if it means less dropping children off at school, less picking them up, less taking them to this class or that sport, or less supervision of homework. I don't doubt though that they would still be expected to be "available".
The real beneficiaries of a longer school day would be parents. This was obvious from the responses to some sort of survey which was done and reported in the state newspaper this morning. Most parents surveyed would apparently like at least an eight hour school day. What they would like to see the school doing in that time - provide supervision of homework, languages, music, art, drama, sport, and other supervised activities -  suggests they want to abrogate their parental responsibilities. There was mention of how it would be less of a financial burden too.
I have never been a fan of "homework" - especially the hours that some senior students need, or feel the need, to do. By no means all adults take work home with them. Those that do are usually in the professions or positions of much higher responsibility.  Languages, music, art, drama, and sport should all be part of the normal school day. There are claims of course that these can no longer be fitted in because there is too much else to teach.  It seems children now need to know about a range of other technical and social issues - such as "coding" and the "rights" of minority groups. Yes, computer programming is undoubtedly important - for some. My guess though is that, like the more advanced forms of maths, most students will forget it the moment they leave school unless their jobs demand it. As for the rights of minority groups I suspect that instead of making an issue of particular groups in society we would do well to start out by teaching the very real need to respect others and respect differences in others.  Do that and other issues become far less of a "problem" than they are now. Unfortunately that's unlikely to happen.
So perhaps we are moving inevitably in the direction of a longer school day, a day when children will see less of their parents. We are also moving in the direction of a day where almost every waking moment will be supervised by an adult, where children make no decisions about how they use their time.
When the next generation is unable to work unsupervised and is unable to use their initiative what will happen? Will we then realise that all this is as much about adult convenience as child learning and safety?


Anonymous said...

"When the next generation is unable to work unsupervised and is unable to use their initiative what will happen? Will we then realise that all this is as much about adult convenience as child learning and safety?"


And for at least one generation children will hardly know what being a part of a family is.

Jodiebodie said...

The school day is long enough as it is. Obviously the respondents of the survey did not have the needs of children in mind. Junior Primary students in particular are exhausted by early afternoon and I suppose if they were forced to stay at school for longer hours, it would be reflected in unruly behaviour when the parents/carers finally do pick them up at the end of the day - behaviour which will probably encourage the parents to keep the children at school for the greater part of the next day as well...

A longer school day does not take into account the amount of time many high school students need for travel or other responsibilities whether it be part-time jobs, volunteering, extra-curricular interest groups or just being available for their families, particularly those students who are carers for someone in their family with a disability.

I do believe a lot of the silly decisions made in the world are because people have forgotten how to rest and lost sight of the benefits that a balanced lifestyle including rest can bring. How are children going to learn how to 'rest' properly if they are never allowed except to sleep?