My argument against the longer school day

I have never understood the reasoning behind extending the school day or indeed the school year.

I think that it all comes down to the idea that quantity somehow will produce quality. But that isn’t the case. The end result of what we do in schools is supposed to be about children’s learning. Children do not learn in an arithmetic progression… they make progress that most agree is based on spurts of progress, some backward lurches and most of the time a steady plateau of what seems like no progress at all.

The extension of the school day will therefore not, in itself, produce the great lurch forward in learning. It may happen at 5 p.m. when the child would otherwise have been at home or in the park or in the streets or somewhere else… or the extra hour or two may just be seen as dead time… to be gone through because it has been designated that they need to be there… children do not learn to order or to time… it is not a thing that can be mapped out or graphed.

So why do it? We could just as easily make an argument that, if we knew what magic potion would lead to improved learning that we could actually decrease the school day because once the child has learnt the things that they are intended to learn they can just tick the box and smile and go home!

The answer lies in creating the right environment for learning and that means buildings and access to technology. It means teachers who are motivated and not under pressure to produce results like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat.

We are in a time of change for the world as much as for education. The length of the school day will not produce magical results. The importance of education is quite rightly being seen as central to enabling schoolchildren to participate fully in the world of tomorrow. The debate is right but needs to be based on common sense not slogans. “Lengthening the school day” will not produce the answers… enabling  children to learn the skills they need for the flat world that they live in needs quality and not quantity.

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