This is an area that would benefit from being looked at. I have concerns that we have an academic calendar which, in some cases, is actually harmful to the health of both students and teachers.
"Schools are now increasingly doing their own thing, and so what you get in communities is schools with quite different holiday patterns. I think that causes a lot of problems for parents, teachers and students."
In some places the autumn term can be very long. It’s a difficult time of the year because the days are shorter, there are more bugs going around, people pick up more colds and there’s no question that people get very run down. But at a deeper level people can sometimes suffer a form of mental exhaustion, which is deeply unhealthy for both teachers and students.
Obviously it’s very difficult, because what is an advantage in one area may have significant disadvantages elsewhere. So you might solve one problem, but create another. The whole issue of holidays is fraught with that. It’s an extraordinarily difficult issue to address. At the moment, these problems also compounded by the creation of this market in education where schools are now increasingly doing their own thing, and so what you get in communities is schools with quite different holiday patterns. I think that causes a lot of problems for parents, it causes teachers problems, and actually I think it militates against students feeling part of a community as an extension of their school. So whatever changes we might make, I think one of the things we should re-establish is the notion of common patterns in geographical areas and communities.
"We ought to be having a more fundamental discussion about how we help more young people engage in more creative opportunities."
In terms of the school day, there’s a temptation to think if we make the day longer people are going to learn more. At one level that seems intuitive, but if you look at other parts of the world with longer school hours then I’m not sure there necessarily is a neat relationship. Sometimes the right thing to do may appear counter-intuitive.
Maybe the issue to think about is what other learning opportunities are built into the day. For example, children need time for recreation. Rather than what is sometimes quite a shallow discussion about the length of the school day, we ought to be having a more fundamental discussion about how we help more young people engage in more creative opportunities. And these opportunities are hugely defined by social class. Many people access and pay for these opportunities, which only reinforces inequalities. So any discussion about the school day should be in the context of broader notions of the curriculum and learning, and also being accessible to all.