Sunday, 21 April 2013

Gove...a view from here

I've been wanting to write this for a while. I am not a political person in general. I try and roll my eyes at the latest 'initiative' suggested by Mr Gove and hope they might just 'go away' / he might just 'go away' but the latest one this week really got my blood boiling.

So I am wading into the 'longer days and shorter holidays' debate.

We all know the facts and have probably all seen them on Twitter. There is no evidence to suggest that more hours is going to benefit. We already in the UK do far more school hours than many of our European counterparts and yet they are doing 'better' whatever 'better' means in context. Surely this is about quality not quantity?

Quality not quantity....well this would mean that Mr Gove would have to support the notion of all schools having QUALIFIED teachers and nothing else. Now I work in a SEN school with a 50/50 split of qualified and unqualified teachers and it is very interesting. Now I take all the 'bread and butter' stuff of being a teacher for granted. I know how to level pupils, how to mark effectively and how to plan lessons amongst many other things that escape me right now. Unqualified teachers cannot do this, not in many cases because they don't want to - they have the best interests of the kids at heart of course - but because they have not been TRAINED to because they are unqualified.
Surely it is obvious that people who are more confident in their abilities are going to do better at their job? You wouldn't want an unqualified surgeon or dentist now would you? Is it not the same thing to place the education of thousands of children in unqualified hands. For me, without correct formal training PRIOR to taking a teaching post the job will not be done properly or effectively.

Longer days. Again having worked in a mainstream academy which delivered lessons from 8:30 - 3:20 for Key Stage 3 but 8:30 - 4:30 for Key Stage 4 and 5 I know how long days can feel, even longer when you factor in after school clubs. I was often in school til past 7pm and the train journey home meant I didn't get home until gone 8pm - having left home at 7am.  That is 13 HOURS Mr Gove please take note.
Currently in my special school I leave home at 7:15 and the day is 8:50 - 3:30 but by the time we have dealt with any issues/debriefing and detentions it is often 4:15 before I can even think about what needs to be done before I can go home. I aim to be 'out' by 6pm depending on the day but this is still on average 11 HOURS.

This does not include the work I do at home on evenings/weekends - on average about 6-8 hours a week.

So, Mr Gove if you a proposing longer days I would ask you these questions:
1. Where and when do you think all the planning/marking/extra stuff/clubs will happen? I already work a lot of hours a week (55 in school plus anything at home) and there are only so many hours in a day!
2. Have you considered how much more you will have to pay teachers to do this? They are not going to do it for free!
3. The kids I teach are shattered by 2pm, it is a struggle to get anything decent work wise after this time. You intend to keep them in school longer to do what? Because academic 'work' is out of the question. Frankly they will literally vote with their feet if you try and do this.
4. Students they should be encouraged to have paper rounds/part time jobs/hobbies/sports/music out of school - if they are in school for longer this will not be possible and will affect the 'well rounded' experience that is LIFE.....get a grip on reality, surely these experience are more valuable than a bunch of facts.
5. Have you considered the fact that many parents actually want to see their kids and do nice things with them?
6. What about teachers who have children themselves? They will be passing ships in the night as the teacher-parent is so tied up with work and the kids are at school longer. I do not have my own children (yet) but I would want to see them and spend time with them. What you are proposing is simply ludicrous.

Finally on shorter holidays. Have you seen a teacher at the end of a half term? They are often broken, tired individuals who NEED the holiday to rest. Simply that. I am a big advocate of teachers being healthy both in body and mind having been neither at some stages in my career...we need to look after ourselves. 

To conclude I say this.

It is about time that we as educators, governors and parents stand up and simply say to Mr Gove

No. Enough is Enough. You have gone too far this time. 

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