I’ve had this post in draft for a while, trying to find a time to write up some of the nagging doubts that are resurfacing about having our children in school. Debating the Paul Kirby blog post (a former advisor to the government) yesterday caused me to say, among other things, this:-
This man may have left his secondment but you can bet your bottom dollar it is discussed elsewhere too. And Gove just can’t be trusted not to say ‘I like this, make it so!’
And look, less than 24 hours later, Gove has the same miracle idea – keep all kids in school for 10 hours a day. I’ve linked to Sky as it has some of a video of him speaking, but the press of all shapes and sizes is erupting in discussion about his radical ideas. Twitter is alight; it comes to a pretty pass when I retweet Alastair Campbell.
It’s almost like he listened to that man who wrote a blog post. Or maybe, I guess, they’ve long been discussing these ideas in Whitehall.
I’m not sure what bothers me most about this; my kids arrive in school at 8.30 and rarely leave before 4.30pm. They do their lessons and they go to a school that doesn’t have a lunch break and they fill their after school with homework, netball, singing and dancing, CCF, music, trampoline and more. Fran spends a further 3 nights a week and a Saturday morning doing 16 hours of gymnastics at a club, Josie does 8 hours, Fran does 5 hours of dancing and she and Maddy play rugby on Sunday, Amelie does 5 hours of dancing too, they all play instruments, they all help out at home too. They are busy kids, learning to be meaningful humans but it is their choice to be at those places. And part of what makes them who they are is the choosing to do it.
I’m not clear (is he clear?) whether he means these ten hour days should be compulsory. Should it be for reception too? All the way through or just for some kids? Will ones with lives classed as fulfilling outside school be let off or will they have to give up gymnastics to attend a compulsory school club? Will they come home with more homework to do, all that meaningful poster making they do at the moment… Sigh.
And when am I supposed to see them? When will they play? Chill out? Eat meals with us? Read a book? Get to know each other? And should I be worried? After all, this is no longer just a former advisor writing a blog post, it’s the Education Secretary! Or shall I just hope that like Badman, Balls and Brown, he’ll be out of office before the hammer drops on our family life?
At least Kirby seemed to just be being a cold heartened economist about it – let’s get those annoying kids people insist on birthing and then don’t know what to do with out of their hair so they can work – but as an experienced teacher on my Facebook thread pointed out, this is not about parents flexible working hours, the key point here is the welfare of children. Gove seems to actually think he’ll be doing the kids a favour too. And he’s going to do that, apparently, by making all schools as good as those (£30K a year) private schools.
I looked round a private school last week. I went to private school. Gove is NEVER going to make our state schools like our private schools. There is more to them (and they are not perfect themselves) than length of hours, facilities and attitude. They are infused with something you can’t easily inject into a state school for reasons far to complex to bother listing. And apart from anything else, they get very long holidays compared to our state schools. I just can’t see the likes of Kirby and Gove liking that idea.
I’ve had a passionate, hands on role in my kids’ education for their whole life. Sending them to school was a wrench and recently we’ve begun to re-evaluate that. Fran is fine, but in some subjects we now have to help her as she has fallen behind after being ahead when she started. She won’t do as well in her GCSE’s as she would in a different school, or maybe even at home. It makes me sad when I go to parent’s evening and hear her teachers aspiring to mediocrity for her. Maddy gains in social joy what she loses in brilliant teaching but Amelie is sinking fast. I’ve kidded myself for a while that at least they are in the hands of people who know what they are doing and then…
Fran is predicted an A* in Maths and that prediction was holding over lots of reports. In half term I asked her to do a practice paper to reassure me all was well. She could barely do 25% of it. I started to investigate and discovered the following.
Her prediction is based on her SAT score (at age 11) and her SAT score is on her record as 5A, so she gets predicted a GCSE (5 years later) of an A*. Only she never did SATS, so they took her very good CAT score when she joined them in Yr 9 and extrapolated backwards to guess what she might have got at SATs and then used that imaginary data to guess her GCSE prediction.
That’s pretty bad use of statistics I would say, but wait for this.
They don’t use current data (ie the marks she is currently getting in class, homework or tests) to make assumptions on her GCSE grade. So had I not made her sit that test, no one would have flagged up that she was not even going to get a D in an exam 5 months away. It’s lucky I did – and that she has able and interested parents who coached her in the 3 weeks before her mocks to try and remedy the situation. She missed a B by 3 marks.
And so it is because there are people making decisions like that in charge of our education system, that I think it is a good idea to be alert and questioning the words of anyone who has recently walked the halls of Whitehall. And because 24 hours ago I said that in a list of reasons to be wary, Gove should be on it twice just for the sake of safety. I’ll end with the statement I started with. I think it turned out to be justified.
I shall say this politely and only once, but any government that brings in 45 hour school weeks and 7 school holiday weeks a year will lose the pleasure of all my children’s company in the school system. And they are uppers of averages, so think on Policy makers.
PS Mr Gove, I think the tax contribution to a child in the state system is something like £1600 a year compared to even a cheapish private school being roughly £13000 a year. So, you know, good luck and all that.