Michael Gove: Long school summer holidays should be consigned to history

Long school summer holidays should be consigned to history, Gove declares as he warns of more strikes by teaching unions
Education Secretary calls for longer school days and shorter holidays
Warns Britain is not keeping pace with other countriesUnions accused of putting teachers' needs before children

By
Matt Chorley, Mailonline Political Editor

PUBLISHED:

14:01 GMT, 18 April 2013

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UPDATED:

16:29 GMT, 18 April 2013


Education Secretary Michael Gove said children needed longer school days and shorter holidays to keep pace with other countries

Education Secretary Michael Gove said children needed longer school days and shorter holidays to keep pace with other countries

The traditional long summer school holiday is a relic of the 19th century and must be consigned to history, Michael Gove declared today.

The Education Secretary said it was wrong that terms were still scheduled for a time when children were needed to help out on farms and most mothers stayed-at-home.

And he warned of more strikes ahead, accusing unions of lacking ambition and putting the needs of teachers before those of children in their care.

Some schools have already overhauled their term patterns, abolishing the long six-week summer holiday.

But Mr Gove wants every school to follow suit, with longer days and shorter holidays.

He told an education conference: ‘We can’t afford an education system that was essentially set in the nineteenth century.’

The government has previously suggested the school day lasting from 7.30am to 5.30pm, boosting learning and making it easier for parents to go to work.

Mr Gove said ‘some of the best schools in the country’ recognise the need to change the structure of the school term and move to a longer school day.

New powers for headteachers to pay good teachers more could also be used to increase school hours, he said.

‘It’s consistent with the pressures of a modern society. I also think it’s going to be family friendly,’ Mr Gove told the event organised by the Spectator magazine.

Some schools have already moved to longer hours and fewer holidays (file picture)

Some schools have already moved to longer hours and fewer holidays (file picture)

‘The structure of the school term and the school day was designed at a time when we had an agricultural economy.

‘I
remember half term in October when I was at school in Aberdeen was
called the tattie holiday – the period when kids would go to the fields
to pick potatoes. It was also at a time when the majority of mums stayed
home.

Mr Gove said the school holidays system was set for a time when children were needed to help on farms

Mr Gove said the school holidays system was set for a time when children were needed to help on farms

‘That world no
longer exists, and we can’t afford to have an education system that was
essentially, set in the nineteenth century.’

Mr Gove also renewed his attack on
teaching unions, accusing them of fostering a ‘culture of low
expectations’ which is holding children back.

He added: ‘One of the tragedies of our time is that the teaching unions have chosen to put the interests of adults, ahead of the needs of our children. And that is why sadly, the unions, as a voice of teachers is diminishing.

‘My challenge not to teachers, but to teaching unions – is to do a better job.’

Asked if Britain was facing more strikes in schools, he replied: ‘Yes. There seems to be a competition between the NUT and NASUWT to compete for members, with each one trying to out radical the other.

‘I think that this is a golden opportunity for teachers to prove what they can achieve.’

He urged the unions to set up a Free School, offering to find them a building and provide funding.

In a speech he said that pupils are at a 'significant handicap' compared to youngsters in East Asian nations who benefit from extra tuition and support from teachers.

Mr Gove said: 'One of the striking things about East Asia is that they do not have what we have in England, is the automatic assumption that you divide children into the achievers and the others, the academic and the vocational.

'They believe that every child can be educated. The assumption is that all children at every year will absorb and learn the curriculum. And their expectations are higher than in this country.

'School days are longer, school holidays are shorter. The expectation is that to succeed, hard work is at the heart of everything.

'And if you look at the length of the school day in England, the length of the summer holiday – and we compare it to the extra tuition and support that children are receiving elsewhere – then we are fighting or actually running in this global race in a way that ensures that we start with a significant handicap.'