EDUCATION leaders in Hartlepool have had their say on calls from the education minister for longer schooldays and shorter summer holidays.
Michael Gove described the current system as “out of date” and wants schools to finish later than 3.30pm and summer holidays to be cut to four weeks.
Mr Gove believes UK schoolchildren are at a “signifant handicap” compared to youngsters in East Asian nations who benefit from extra tuition and support from teachers.
Rick Wells, principal at Hartlepool Sixth Form College and a governor at High Tunstall College of Science and Manor College of Technology, agrees that a more flexible school year and longer school days would benefit students.
But he said: “In general Mr Gove is basing his argument on the model in Asia and the nature of an Asian schoolday is very different.
“It’s also true to say that compared to France and Germany our teachers spend more time in the classroom and have shorter holidays.
“Our teachers are pretty heavy pressed as it is yet now there is a suggestion for longer schooldays which wouldn’t be possible without employing more staff.
“We also need to remember the whole point of childhood is having one, it’s a precious and special time which will be lost if the dial is turned too far.”
Dyke House Sports and Technology College, in Hartlepool is one of the schools which has already lengthened its schoolday, with students now starting at 8am.
And headteacher Andrew Jordon said the school also runs various classes, sessions and courses for students during all of the school holidays.
Mr Jordon said: “There were some concerns from parents when we moved the start of our schoolday back to 8am, but we have found it to be really beneficial for our students.
“Our students now do extra literacy and reading on a morning and a large proportion of them stay behind until around 4.30pm time for progress classes.
“It gives an opportunity to those who aren’t achieving what they should be achieving.”
Mr Gove said that the Government was making changes to teachers’ pay, terms and conditions which would mean they could be paid more for taking on extra duties and allow headteachers to organise their staff “in a way to get more out of young people”. He also insisted that changes to term times and the school day would be family friendly.
Mr Gove made the headlines earlier this year when he singled out East Durham schools, during a national conference, to say the area lacked ambition.
He also abandoned plans to replace GCSEs with a new English Baccalaureate certificate.