Michael Gove has proposed not only that schools open for longer hours but also a cut in the length of holidays. Of course, this idea will not seem appealing to the majority of students in the UK who already loathe the five to six hour school days. The 10-hour school day will include after school activities, drawing state schools closer to the make-up of independent schools in Britain. In addition to this, summer holidays will be reduced from 6 weeks to 4.

In mid-February earlier this year, Mr Gove received criticism from the School Teacher’s Body Report, dismissing his plan to increase the school hours in Britain. What we need to ask ourselves is whether this is the only solution to improving the academic outcomes in Britain’s education sector. In a report published by the Department for Education Michael Gove set forth his plans for improving the education system.

A key argument put forth by the School Teacher’s Body Report is that teachers currently work outside of their designated teaching hours running after school clubs and planning for lessons.

“We note that teachers currently work additional hours beyond directed classroom sessions and there is already flexibility for heads to deploy teachers according to the needs of their pupils”

Perhaps a better suggestion would be to give head teachers’ nationwide, greater power in allowing for extra teaching, subject to the situation a student is in. For example, in many schools there is an increase in after-school revision classes for GCSE students, additionally, when students fail tests they are sometimes called back after school to complete the test again. Thus there are currently systems in place allowing for teachers to work extra hours, giving pupils the individual choice to undertake such opportunities. The exertion of this notion will allow pupils to freely choose whether or not they wish to pursue after school tuition. On the other hand, the extra work that teachers already put in unpaid under Mr Gove’s proposal will mean that teachers are getting paid for working longer hours.

Gove has stated that:

“It may be the case that there are one or two legislative and bureaucratic obstacles which prevent all schools moving in this direction, but I think it’s consistent with the pressures of a modern society. I also think it’s going to be family friendly,”

A close examination of other high performing systems is necessary in deploring a successful way to boost education standards in Britain. Effective teachers training is a progressive idea put forth by Mr Gove, a focus on raising the level of teaching standards can in turn improve the level at which students are performing at. This of course may appear to be undermining the current capability of staff; however, this has proved very beneficial in Shanghai where teachers are given mentors that can observe the teaching of their mentee. In addition to this, teachers are members of research groups that assess new ways of teaching effectively.

Another country we can look at is Singapore, were all teachers receive teachers training at the National institute of Education.  New teachers are assigned with mentors, and all teachers are can receive 100 hours of free teaching development each year.  According to OECD data, teachers in Asia often teach larger classes but spend fewer hours in front of students, leaving more time for class prep and activities that boost individual student growth. Additionally, in Japan, ‘upper secondary’ teachers spent 27% of their working time teaching in 2010 and in South Korea ‘upper secondary’ (key stage 4) teachers spent 37% of their working time teaching in comparison to 53% for teachers in the United States. Suggesting that students must also take responsibility of their own learning, which in England is not very eminent until college or even university.

Statistics show that in Shanghai there are typically around 40 students to a class in ‘lower secondary’ (key stage 3) with teachers spending 10-13 hours per week in the classroom according to a report published in 2012 by Grattan Institute. The rest of the time is devoted to the observation of other classes, mentoring and carrying out research of other activities that can make learning more efficient.

It can be argued that the most effective way to boost student performance in Britain is through a scheme that involves the underperforming schools being temporarily lead by teachers of a well performing school in order to implement new strategies to raise standards in that particular school. This of course however will have many cost implications. On the whole, Mr Gove’s plans to reform education in Britain to some extent may prove beneficial and effective; however, whether it is something that will be of benefit to a modern society in which traditional education is less universally aimed for, is debatable.

Sources

1. Department for education: www.gov.co.uk Schools Teacher’s review body reports (STRB)
2. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/apr/18/michael-gove-longer-school-day-holidays
3. http://thelearningcurve.pearson.com/articles/article/the-secrets-of-asian-education-success
4. http://grattan.edu.au/publications/reports/post/catching-up-learning-from-the-best-school-systems-in-east-asia/
5. Grattan Institute, an independent policy think tank in Australia