The Dim-Post

December 23, 2008

Schools out

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 8:38 am

dazed-and-confusedA few of my friends are school teachers and I suspect they’ll have mixed feelings when they read this:

The School Trustees Association, which represents most of the 2700 school boards, wants a national debate on whether schools should open well before 9am and shut much later each day to better cater for pupils’ changing needs.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has welcomed the suggestion, saying there is an “appetite” for fresh ideas to benefit pupils, teachers and principals.

Association general manager Ray Newport said any such changes would require a law change.

He conceded that extending the school day had huge implications for staffing levels, teachers’ hours and the effects on pupils and working parents.

The modern school day is an historical artifact from way back in the distant past when Mum’s stayed at home to look after their little cherubs before 9 and after 3 and drank gin while watching Days of Our Lives in between times. Sadly we have moved on as a nation and those stay at home Mums all have jobs as National Party Cabinet Ministers so it seems very sensible for schools to reflect these social changes.

In fact it seems like such an obvious, socially progressive thing to do you have to wonder why the hell Labour didn’t get around to it during the last nine years? I guess passing the EFA and giving tens of millions of dollars away to the racing industry were just higher priorities (how you liking it there in opposition guys?)

Clearly the hard part is getting the teachers unions on board. If a ~50% increase in school hours (say, an 8-4 shift and a 10-6 shift) was accompanied by a 50% increase in staff then I think the teachers union would be pretty sweet. If the answer is to just have the teachers work a lot longer in the classrooms and then do all of their lesson planning and marking in their own time then I think that most of the teachers in the country will just quit their jobs and move overseas.

I think its obvious which of these is preferable and I also think its obvious which one the Nats will opt for – but we are looking at a surge in unemployment over the next few years, and while there seems to be some sort of fantasy in which the jobless retrain themselves as network engineers and work on the broadband roll-out it seems to me that encouraging people to retrain as teachers seems like a more realistic option.


  1. I think you are missing the point that schools are there to teach the children and not as a child care facility to accommodate the work pattern of the parents.

    Children do not have the endurance to handle a long day the way adults do, remember a 7 year old still goes to bed around 7pm. After school children need time to unwind, play with their friends and spend some time with their parents, this would be pretty hard to do if school did not finish until 5pm.

    You also don’t seem to be aware of the after school programmes that are being run by some schools, these provide the sort of extended hours that you suggest.

    Comment by ieuan — December 23, 2008 @ 9:47 am

  2. “I think you are missing the point that schools are there to teach the children and not as a child care facility to accommodate the work pattern of the parents.”

    And airlines are there to get you from A to B, but they learnt that there is a buck to be made in feeding you and pampering you and giving you your own tv. So let’s privatise schools and get those creative juices flowing, such as afterschool care, which I believe is a tidy little earner for the school.

    Alright: not privatise, but lets at least bring in vouchers.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — December 23, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

  3. Don’t forget those pesky school holidays – current lazy kids get 6-8 weeks at Christmas as well as those long breaks during the year, and that takes parents out of the workforce to look after them. Extending school hours only works if the breaks are reduced as well.

    Ignoring the question of whether trapping kids in school for the extra time will help them, even shifts might be tricky because schools are not well set up to support teachers who don’t have classrooms (and they don’t have spare classrooms, by and large). Substantial extra physical resources will be required as well as extra staff, and those will cost more than expected because they’ll have to be installed and maintained at night (and much existing work will have to be shifted to outside the new extended hours too. Unless there’s a plan to clean classrooms while the kids are in them…)

    A better approach to this might be expanding “extra-cirricular” activities. Quotes because if it’s government-mandated it’s hardly extra-cirricular any more. Basically formalise the current after school programmes and extend them to cover more of what kids want and need rather than what is convenient to provide. The howls when the Nats shell out to provide Wii’s and supervised shopping trips will be spectacular, but the alternative of shoving kids into detention as policy does not bear thinking about.

    Some benefits will apply – using the school pool as a community facility will be one immediate gain. Schools are already set up to operate and supervise the pool as well as schedule kids through it. So employing a couple of lifeguards instead of teachers and having the pool run from 3pm until dark right through the summer will help. Likewise an extended sports programme will help get kids exercising (I guess that playing sport after school is not as attractive as playing sport from 3-6pm _instead of_ school). Wear and tear on sports facilities may be an issue.

    Comment by MOZ — December 23, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

  4. An extension of the school year would be more productive, whilst the usual whines from teachers about how hard they work will stop any changes ever happening, I have some sympathy for those that are against an extension of the school day, but only from the point of view that the pot lickers will be unable to stay focused/ manageable if we push an extra two hours a day on them. Increasing the school year by 6-8 weeks would work and really should not be a problem for the teachers. Although many of them will have never actually worked longer than the standard school year since they began school at 5 years of age.

    Comment by barnsleybill — December 23, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  5. If you extend the school year you’d have to give the teachers a fairly massive pay rise; there’s a worldwide shortage of qualified teachers – the majority of NZ teachers can and will leave the country and teach for more money someplace else if they get the only perk their job has taken away from them without seriously expensive compensation.

    Comment by danylmc — December 23, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

  6. I see the usual “public servants are fat and lazy from feeding off the state’s teat.” claptrap is still alive and well.

    Comment by Chris S — December 23, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

  7. I assume people who think teachers have it real easy were home schooled or raised by wolves.

    Comment by danylmc — December 24, 2008 @ 6:11 am

  8. And the killer isn’t just managing the classroom, it’s afternoons in meetings, then going home and putting together lesson plans, preparing resources, marking, reports, and so much more until at least 7pm each night – if you’re a fast worker. From what I’ve seen, if you have any commitment to doing a half-decent job as a teacher the work simply does not cease until the holidays.

    Comment by Sam Finnemore — December 24, 2008 @ 6:44 am

  9. ‘if they get the only perk their job ‘

    Well I live with a teacher who stopped working on Dec 18 and will be back around the begining of the last week of January. About four weeks leave.

    Those ‘breaks’ during the year always seem to include at least one week axtually in the school tidying and planning. There alswys seem to be exams or reports or the like to be done then too…and sometimes, if funds allow…even some professional development.

    So by all means take away the hours that are spent on backroom stuff. Extend the working day too. Just a quick meal break before the evenings work will do.

    I’m sure the profession will rise to the task and keep the country at the top of rankings. And vouchers sound great…MacDonalds on the way home.

    Comment by enzer — December 24, 2008 @ 10:57 am

  10. *sigh* What annoys me about this…is the wee fact that it seems to have slipped past those folk who promulgate Bright Ideas like this…is that teachers have families too.

    It would be nice if they just did eight hours a day , forty a week. I expect that most wouldn’t mind losing the term breaks.As Danyl has indicated…a wage rise might well be in order otherwise…because the last thing anyone would want would be for the teaching profession to work to rule…

    Comment by enzer — December 24, 2008 @ 11:08 am

  11. I dunno, my mother is enjoying her summer holiday and has been pretty much since the kids were let out. Oh, wait, she retired at the end of this school year.

    Teaching is one of those jobs that I wouldn’t do. Full stop. I’ve *seen* teaching from both sides and no amount of money would get me to do a job with those hours and pressures. Even good, experienced, highly organised teachers work ridiculous hours and cop ridiculous shit from morons (I’ve been one of the morons). My stepfather is a school administrator and guess who leaves home later and is home from work first? It’s not the teacher, I can tell you that much.

    I’d love to see teachers paid overtime, or at least the minimum wage for every hour worked. Call it a doubling of pay and I think you’re about right. For competent teachers… slackers could do many fewer hours. The problem is, as always, that measuring outcomes is difficult. It’s not as simple as nursing, say, where there are listable tasks and hard fail criteria. Not saying that nursing is easy to measure, just saying. Does keeping a kid from drug-fscked moron parents out of prison count for more or less than getting John Key’s kid into Harvard? How much is a <5% contribution to that process worth, and how do you measure a new entrant teacher’s contribution the year it’s made?

    Comment by MOZ — December 24, 2008 @ 11:13 am

  12. I am still not clear on what the pupils’ changing needs are. If I were still a pupil I can assure you that the last thing I would need would be to be in school any longer.

    I have school going children an if my kids were in a class with a fantastic teacher then I would like them to be exposed to that teacher for longer, if however they are in class with a mediocre teacher then the current day is already too long.

    I am also quite intrigued by the requirement for debate. Apparently by debating stuff, stuff gets done. Or is a debate a tactic to appear to be doing something when you hope that opposing views would cause a stalemate and the stalemate would cause a continuation of the status quo but at least you demonstrated that you ‘tried’.

    We have to a large extended lost our respect for the teaching profession. Teachers are one of the most important formative influences in my children’s lives. My children have the same needs as children generations past, to receive the best education possible. Their needs have not changed and the number of hours they are exposed to a teacher is of far less importance the quality of that interaction.

    Yet we continue to focus on form rather than content. Come to think of now as I write this, these suggestions indicate that maybe my generation’s education did not produce such quality outcomes after all. Go change!

    Comment by cj_nza — December 24, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

  13. And the spelling and grammatical errors in my previous post goes a long way in disqualifying me from entering the teaching profession. (Caught by the inability to edit my comment post post).

    Comment by cj_nza — December 24, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

  14. OK, read “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Sorry I did not buy it for you for Christmas Danyl and sorry this is such a crap reply but I just don’t think I can do his book any justice at all in paraphrasing.

    Governments around the world are trying to see the silver lining in all this, here it is: thousands of talented people will be freed up from their shit jobs to be able to teach. Don’t think for a minute that extended teaching hours are impossible because of unions, they will have no power. The school day must encompass the working day or you get
    15 days EACH holiday
    to cover a shed load more school holidays
    It will be possible because of the world’s financial situation, I agree that it would not have been possible a year ago. Teachers will work longer and that is that.

    At a friend’s 40th recently one of his University mates who is now a teacher tried to convince me to get into teaching. They could BOTH work (thereby nullifying my gigantic salary) and were never more than 6 weeks from a holiday. Apparently the 4 weeks away camping in France with their boys were the best. This CANNOT go on. Something must revert to the mean.


    Comment by John McMullan — December 26, 2008 @ 11:20 am

  15. STA seem to have missed that many many schools offer after-school care as ieuan’s pointed out. I also agree with the various comments about kids needing time and space to do things other than formal learning – playgrounds, helping out at home, going shopping with the family even are all vital parts of growing up and learning more than the curriculum.

    Clunking Fist should elaborate on how vouchers would work in this situation. None of the advocates have ever spent the time to explain, beyond the basics, how vouchers will achieve the anticipated fantastical outcomes. Even Coddington, their chief public advocate, concedes she’s no idea how they’ll achieve improved learning outcomes.

    Comment by Paul Williams — December 26, 2008 @ 12:04 pm

  16. Perhaps if schools had had longer hours in your day, someone would have taught you to use apostrophes, Danyl. Or rather, when not to use them.

    Comment by Helen — December 28, 2008 @ 9:18 pm

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