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I felt so incensed by Michael Gove’s call to extend the teaching day in state schools and Daniel Hannan’s article in the Telegraph written in support that I felt the need to redress the balance in my blog.
I feel this debate is a political red herring. This whole potato picking comment from Gove smacks of desperation from a man who can see his political successes starting to fade, but still wants to make a big noise so we don’t forget he exists. There is little empirical evidence that the number of teaching hours has a significant effect on achievement and pupil progress.
We have poured more money into school buildings, school systems, we hear so much about reduced class sizes and new examinations and curricula, but these are not the answer. The answer lies elsewhere – it lies in the person who gently closes the classroom door and performs the teaching act –the person who puts into place the end effects of so many policies, who interprets these policies, and who is alone with students during their 15,000 (or so) hours of schooling. Look at my blog on the Hattie research and the evidence should be clear even for Mr Gove to see, the debate we should be having is one over pedagogy not headline winning / state teacher bashing statements.
Mr Gove and the MEP Daniel Hannan have never been teachers and do not seem to know education. I work in education; I teach currently in the independent system and train teachers in both sectors and have worked in international schools. All teachers work hard and well beyond the beginning and end of the school day, just read the comments to Mr Hannan’s article for evidence:
“After 4 solid hours teaching science I am utterly exhausted and mentally drained. The students I teach in the afternoon get a second rate education because by that time I am completely spent. If 20 hours per week does not sound a lot then you have clearly not tried teaching as a profession lately”.
Mr Gove is proposing an extension to his glorified baby-sitting service. Mr Hannan cites his private school experience of longer school days- they also have longer breaks, lunches, afternoons set aside for Games etc; the state school day is more compact, but equally productive. Private schools have shorter terms so how come they often perform much better in the league tables if hours at the chalk face is all that matter? The comparison shows little knowledge of the sectors compared. What about international schools? True they often start earlier, but also finish earlier due to lack on air conditioning in many hot climes and most have longer holidays whether state run or independent.
Let’s shift this argument back to what really matters- quality of teaching as described by OFSTED and all that comes with it. Hattie describes the differences in practice between novice and experienced teachers and their notable effects. True professional development, mentoring and coaching is what our teachers need both state and independent.