Stop Gove hacking our school hols

Martin Powell-Davies, a member of the National Union of Teachers NEC

Teachers – and many parents – have been shocked by Tory education minister Michael Gove’s announcement that he wants to lengthen the school day and shorten school holidays.

Whatever Gove might pretend, these proposals have nothing to do with improving education. There is no real evidence to show that making students work for longer will improve their learning.

Forcing teachers to work even longer hours certainly won’t help to produce high-quality education either.

It’s not just teachers who are exhausted by the intensity of an education system distorted by an obsession with targets and test scores. Many young people are also tired at the end of the school day.

Like all of us, school students need proper breaks to work efficiently. They also need their own free time and holidays to develop their interests and personality outside of school and to spend time with family and friends.

Work until you drop

Gove tried to portray our school terms as some outdated ’19th century’ relic, arguing that we need to learn from Hong Kong and Singapore where school holidays are shorter. Gove may end up with more than he bargained for – last year, 90,000 marched against the Hong Kong government’s new national curriculum in a protest against ‘government brainwashing’!

Gove clearly wants the ‘work-until-you-drop’ culture to be drummed into children. With Tory Childcare Minster Elizabeth Truss incredibly now complaining that toddlers “are running around with no sense of purpose” in nurseries, it shows just what kind of regimented and stultifying education system they have in mind.

Teachers are in the immediate firing-line. Even official figures show that the average teachers’ working week is already over 50 hours. The TUC estimates that this equates to £7 billion of unpaid overtime every year.

Teachers have every reason to be angry but parents must also support teaching unions to oppose these attacks.

Gove just wants to turn schools into a joyless child-minding service to assist employers to force all of us – teachers and parents alike – to work even longer hours.


Far from being ‘family-friendly’ as Gove claims, this government is breaking up relationships and damaging children’s lives by its attacks on benefits, jobs and conditions.

If the Tories were serious about supporting working parents, why won’t they reverse the cuts that have already axed so many youth services and holiday play-schemes as well as the planned freeze on working family tax credits?

Education shouldn’t just be about child-minding. However, the fact that so many employers rely on schools looking after their workers’ children gives teachers enormous potential power.

It means that when teachers go on strike, it isn’t just schools that have to close; many other workplaces are affected as well.

Now teachers have to use that power not just to defend their own pay and conditions but to defend education as a whole.