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Would longer school hours improve our education standards?

You'd have to have been living on Planet Mars recently not to have heard about Michael Gove's suggestion to have longer school days and shorter holidays and the negative reaction there has been to this. Mr Gove believes that our school system was designed for a 19th-century agricultural economy, children are trailing behind and that school hours and holidays need to be more family-friendly. With teacher and parents groups opposing this move, it's hard to think who he is trying to appeal to.

Personally, I think that a 9am-3.30pm is enough of a school day for children. I wouldn't relish picking my children up at 4.30pm as I think that they'd be exhausted. I also like them to do after school activities on some days and just chill at home on others. But would longer hours mean that our children would really benefit? And is it worth considering? I had a little look into other countries school hours and was really interested to read about Finland which is recognised world-wide as a top ranking education model. Significantly, Finland has the shortest formal teaching hours in Europe but the best educational results. As well as being a major refutation of Gove's longer hours hypothesis, this also suggests to me that we should be considering some of the other things that Finland does if we are looking to majorly re-vamp our current school system. For example:

  • In UK primary schools, children generally have a new class teacher each year. This is different in Finland where the class can be with a teacher for 6 years. They believe that this makes the class seem more like a ?family? meaning children learn better and don't have to deal with changes each year.
  • There is fierce competition to be a teacher in Finland and all the teachers there have Masters degrees (which are fully subsidised). In fact, only 10% of trainee teachers actually get to be practising ones.
  • Finnish teachers have much more autonomy to choose the way in which they teach.
  • The education system as a whole places a greater emphasis on playtime and there are lots of breaks in the school day.
  • There are no private schools in Finland at all and classes are not academically streamed.
  • Children don't have to start school until they are 7 years old
  • Class sizes don't normally exceed 15.
  • There is a huge emphasis on sports, music and the arts in every school. In fact they are considered to be a crucial part of educating.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on Gove's longer school hours and whether it is a good thing or not? And if anyone has any experience of the Finnish school system, then please do get in touch.


Leave a comment

    From Kay
    I read with interest all the above and wonder whether an input from a non EU country would add to the confusion.
    Kenya in Africa has a system where children start school at the age of 6. Schools start at 8.30am to 5.00pm with a 20 min break at 10.00 and 45min lunch at 12.45pm. The lessons finish at 4.00pm with the last hour left for sports,tuition and activities which are compulsory for all. Smarter students will finish all their homework at this time before they go home. When they get home its family time and dinner.
    Holidays are equal three times a year at the end of the terms with Christmas a little bit longer (6 - 8 weeks). They are in April, August and end of November. The school year runs from January to Dec. At the end of every term, there are exams which rank the children with the best being No. 1 in the class.
    I suppose Gove is borrowing ideas not just from the Finnish and other EU countries but perhaps looking from a global perspective.
    From Monica
    I am from Romania, too and I confirm what Lia said above. I personally think school time for every school in UK is long enough and has to remain the same or to be even less.
    Most of the European countries manages very well the situation of their schools so that the time spent there to be a pleasure for the kids, while in UK became more boring. Nowhere in Europe the teachers in primary schools are changed yearly, there are always 10 min. breaks for every hour of a single lesson and the school holidays have been chosen more convenient either for kids and parents. For example ,the summer holiday is almost three months from 15Th of June to 15th of September, while in UK is the worst and shortest summer holiday in the WORLD ,even less than 1 1/2 month. I hate the fact as a family we can not enjoy for a holiday in the hottest July being stuck for the school term ;more over we have to comeback first in the beginning of September, while the most others Europeans still spend their holidays until middle of the same month.I suggest British GOVErnment has to revise a little bit of all those "unpleasant" rules and would better learn something good from others.

    Good luck to everyone !Monica
    From Lucy Quick
    Thank you Lia, that's really interesting to hear. I wish Mr Gove read my blog!
    From Lucy Quick
    Yes, what you are saying is shared by all the teachers I know too. Well said.
    From Lia
    I was brought up in Romania and I didn't start school until I was 7! Yes, at 7 year old I started learning the alphabet! (I could read a bit before as I had an older sibling!). There was kindergarten from age of 3 and that was 3 hours per day, 5 days a week and school term only. We had one teacher for 4 years and I still LOVE that teacher. I have find memories of her and my time in primary school1 It was like a time with a big family! Ours school day in primary school would start at 8 am and finished at 12. We then went home and had lunch with our family.
    My life at that age was light, easy, stress free1 I spent time with my family more than with strangers!
    Longer school hours? Are you kidding? Kids need family time! they need rest time as well, especially at that young age!
    And this year it was announced that Romanian are the best at maths in Europe and third in the world! So, starting school at 7 doesn't mean kids are missing on anything! they get to have a childhood!
    From Emma
    Im totally opposed. Its a farce. I teach reception and the day already feels far too long for them. Also there is only limited productive learning after lunch. Also it.ll drive holiday prices up even more. I'll definitely strike. Teachers are already worked far too hard with unreachable targets and expectations. Im sure many Will leave the profession. Also i want to spend time with my child who i already think Will be starting school far too young. X
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