Opinion: Schools should suit working parents

Like many parents of four-year-olds right now, I’m preparing for the big move to primary school this September. Our new school is doing a great job of easing the transition from nursery for our son; but as full-time working parents the difference between nursery and school is deeply stressful.

Nursery is run for working parents: open 8-6, three meals a day provided, flexible arrival and departure time, and one itemised monthly bill. School is very different: closed 14 weeks of the year, and finishing around 3pm the other 38. A whole mini-industry of breakfast clubs, after-school clubs, holiday clubs and summer schools has grown up to fill the gap for families who can’t have an adult at home so much of the time. Each one has its own waiting list, hours, costs, payment methods and reputation for quality … or not. Even school dinners are paid for separately. With less than 2 months to go, we’ve a lot of arrangements still to sort out.

The launch of the Public Services White Paper this week, and the suggestion of private organisations providing state-funded services, has caused a number of my friends to fume about “privatising schools and hospitals”. I can’t help noting that in moving from a partially state-funded private nursery to an entirely state-provided school, I’m getting a worse service, at greater cost to the taxpayer.

We aren’t living in the 19th century, with extra farm labour needed in the summer. We’re in the 21st century where both parents may go out to work, and a quarter of families are headed by a single parent. What if the state school system was designed for parents who are also employees?

A starting point would be bringing the organisation of year-round childcare into the school, and offering parents a single point of contact for the administration of before-school, after-school and holidays. The ‘core hours’ concept could be usefully borrowed from business, where core (i.e. the traditional state-funded academic year) remains the default, but a simple application for non-core hours is available for those parents who need it, with a unified monthly bill (even better if it can include school dinners!)

A more radical change would be to allow schools to change when they ran their core hours to suit their local community. The state would still pay for 33 hours 38 weeks of the year, but a school could adapt to local needs. For example, in a community with highly seasonal work, the school could match the state-funded provision of childcare/education with the peak work season, allowing more parents to take up seasonal work.

Schools are a vital part of local communities but too often seem to be run on the assumption that every child has a parent available during the working day. How do we get to a place where all parents, even those who go out to work, are included in the community?

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  • Absolutely. And as teachers paid year round it shouldn’t even cost that much more. There will be howls that teachers work very hard but where are their night shifts or weekends like nurses? I just don’t buy that argument. Although I do think that workload during terms should be looked at and if necessary reduced to allow them to be in the childcare business as well as in the education business.

    And before someone says that I shouldn’t have kids if I don’t want to look after them myself then my answer is ‘give me 14 weeks’ holiday and I would love to’.

    The long holidays and short days are the biggest barrier to parents finding jobs (nb single parents required to do so by Tories and Lab when kids reach 5 or 7 respectively). MPs talk about incentives. How does a single mother cover 14 weeks’ holiday? Meanwhile teachers are paid to sit at home for huge amounts of time.

  • Totally agree with Andrew. At a nursery you spend a few hours with them at a new one and if they’re fine with it you leave them. At a primary school you spend weeks having to pick them up at midday! Oh – and there are all sorts of Inset days that seemingly can’t be fitted into 14 weeks when the schools are closed.

  • Liberal Neil 13th Jul '11 - 10:58am

    While there are some good points in the article about ways in which wrap-around care could be better organised I think it and some of the comments confuse education and childcare.

    Schools are there to provide education, and the pattern of education they provide, including starting the youngest children with half days, and having regular holidays, is part of providing that education. If the evidence is that this is not the best way to provide education then yes, it should be changed, but not because some parents would find it more convenient.

    Childcare outside of school hours is not the same thing as education, and it is primarily the responsibility of parents to provide it. Yes, it is good if it can be provided on the school site and organised efficiently, but it is not the same thing as providing education. It should be provided by childcare professionals, not teaching professionals.

    Parents make choices. If both parents in a couple want to work full time then they have to take responsibility for the consequences of that decision, which will include paying for additional childcare.

  • I agree with you but I would also like to make an additional point: I would like to see more secondary schools change their starting time to suit the sleeping habits of teenagers. It’s a source of annoyance and hum our for many parents of broody teenagers that they sleep and sleep and sleep.

    But on a serious note, studies have shown that as children reach puberty their body clocks change to adult times and so they cannot sleep until later in the evening. However, they still need more hours sleep than an adult as they are still growing and developing. What you end up with is teenagers who can’t (won’t?!) go to sleep until 11/12pm at night but yet have to get up at 7am to go to school and so they are tired and grumpy.

    They carried out a trial in California where a number of high schools changed their opening hours to 10am-6pm which gave the pupils another two hours sleep. The results were very convincing – the students were more attendant, got higher results and misbehaved less often. I wish I could find the studies online but I can’t, sorry.

    If schools opened at 10am and closed at 6pm then, at least, the closnig time would fit better with the 9-5 hours of most parents. How to make sure they get up and go to school for 10am when you’re already at work is a challenge I have no solution for just now!!

  • Barry Holliday 13th Jul '11 - 11:07am

    Well I’m a teacher, so obviously i’m going to disagree!

    However, I agree that childcare via school should be made available, pre-school breakfast clubs are already on offer, post-school activities can also be increased. I agree these should be offered to all parents who need them. But they shouldn’t be manned by teachers, they should be manned by childcare workers, paid for by the parents.

    I disagree that 3 meals need to be offered, but would agree with 2, breakfast and lunch.

    I completely agree that a single method of payment & single itemised bill.

    However, i will defend our holidays and hours. We work incredibly hard, every hour of the teaching day we have to work at 110%, we can’t have a day on auto-pilot, we can have an ‘off’ day. Every hour of the teaching day where we are not in front of kids we are planning and marking. Once finished for the day, we head home and generally do at least 2 further hours of marking and planning. We plan and mark at least 4 hours per weekend (generally a little on Sat and sun, which means week after week without a day free from work). We also spend much of our holidays planning and marking, or organising things for the following term.

    Ask any full time parent if their job is easy. Entertaining, educating, focussing, managing, disciplining 30 children is a tiring job, likewise (as I stated before) we can’t be at less than 110%. We need to time to recoup, to mentally repair ourselves. Also we don’t get to pick our holidays, we are forced to take them when told, having more is a pay-off.

    Likewise the children get tired through the term, imagine being a 12 year old and being forced to learn new information for 6.5 hours a day, every day, college students don’t do that much, university students don’t do that much, PHD students don’t do that much and yet we all say that as the others are adults they should be able to focus better than kids! By week 6 of a term, they are tired, they are rowdy, which makes our job so much harder. They need the break too.

    In short, yes schools should offer a more inclusive ‘service’ incorporating more childcare along side education, but that childcare should work round the current education timetable. But for that to happen someone somewhere will need to put more money in the pot, be that as parents paying for the additional services or through taxation.

  • @Andrew Ducker
    “The school seems completely unequipped to deal with the idea that parents might actually have jobs.”

    It appears to me that.your brother and his wife appear not to understand that having children means making sacrifices and requires commitment.

  • The way I would approach this would be with the intention of getting better utilisation out of publically funded buildings including schools outside their core hours/weeks of use. I pity a 3 year old sent off to nursery from 8am to 6pm 5 days a week though.

  • @Liberal Neil
    Well said.

    As for the others who’ve commented on here – you come across as being quite ignorant of the jobs and responsibilities of other people and you seem to want someone else (in addition to doing their own jobs!) to do your job of being a parent.

    My wife is a teacher. She works a minimum of 60 hours a week in school during term time, plus many extra hours in the evenings and weekends and at least two to three weeks of her ‘holidays’ in school. In addition to this, you appear to want her to child-mind your offspring whilst you go out to work? Do you seriously believe it is good for the welfare of a five year old child to send them out for 8-9 hours a day?

    You made the choice to have kids – is it too much to ask that you are responsible for parenting them and for paying for the costs of any care if you choose to work full time, rather than expecting someone else to provide for you? If you aren’t prepared to pay for it personally, then the only other option is to raise taxes to provide the money for schools to employ child-minders.

  • Old Codger Chris 13th Jul '11 - 12:08pm

    Steve has a point – the main reponsibility for children rests with their parents and there’s a limit to how much taxpayers should shell out. Actually there is much more provision nowadays by way of breakfast clubs, after school clubs etc than was the case not long ago.

    Leaving aside the cash rich / time poor parents who might as well send their offspring to boarding school, are we not subsidising low paying employers and the inflated cost of housing by obliging both parents to work whether they wish to or not? And while many parents have 2 jobs, many others have none and are on Benefits.

  • Er – no.

    The priority in setting up school working hours should not be what’s convenient for parents, nor should it be what’s convenient for teachers. It should be what’s best for children.

    One of the things you’ll realise, particularly in primary school, is how tiring school is for children. These days, it’s pretty well full-on from 9am to 3pm, and with homework commonplace by the end of the term even the older children are flagging. They need the break from school just to recuperate, and recharge batteries.

    In Scotland, the Convention Of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA – the Scottish equivalent of the LGA) stated recently that “the primary role for a teacher should not be to teach children..” and – quite rightly – got pelters for it. There are ways in which some childcare functions could be improved – my council, Fife, have got it pretty much right but yours seems to be all over the place – but they don’t have to be in the school and they certainly don’t have to be carried out by teachers.

    Teachers are not simply highly-paid babysitters. They are there to educate children, and to provide them with the skills needed to succeed in life. And to people like @nightingale, if you think that teachers spend their holidays sitting on their backsides doing nothing, when do you think that the lessons your children receive are planned? When do you think that subject specialists do the reading they need to keep up-to-date with their topics? When do you think that worksheets are typed, classrooms arranged, and preparation done? It’s certainly not the magic classroom fairy who does this. So far (in Scotland our holidays start at the beginning of July) my wife has spent the best part of one week preparing for her class next year. We go on holiday next week – she’ll then spend another week getting ready before term starts mid-August.

    And on top of all that, because councils are cutting back on resources available to teachers, she will make sure that there are enough copies of laminated worksheets, pencils, rubbers, rulers, books, posters etc available for the classroom. The source of this money? Our pockets. I reckon about £500 per year in total on things like copying, CDs, stationery.

    Sorry for the rant. But I get heartily sick of hearing about people likening teachers to nannies and then complaining about their employment terms and conditions. If you can, ask to spend a day – or better, a week – shadowing a teacher in your local school. Then you’ll realise why schools work as they do – because, by and large, it’s the child which is at the heart of it all, not the parent or the teacher.

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 13th Jul '11 - 12:23pm

    @LiberalNeil “some of the comments confuse education and childcare”

    There is a continuum between the two: age-appropriate education for under-sevens looks awfully like age-appropriate childcare, not so much by the time you get to secondary-age. The standard school day includes “childcare” rather than “education” in every break time and lunch time. Meanwhile, there are plenty of “educational” after-school clubs in many schools: languages, music, and PE practice.

    If I seem to confuse education with childcare provision in my piece, so did all the people complaining about the impact on workers of schools closing for strikes a couple of weeks ago.

    “It should be provided by childcare professionals, not teaching professionals.”

    I think it should be up to the school how best to provide additional childcare/education for the children in their care. Again, for very young children the same professional qualification covers both (nursery nurses). I think a school can decide whether to take on extra staff (whether teachers or childcare professionals) funded by the childcare charges, or merely to “do the paperwork” for a separate organisation using the premises, whether private or council/LEA provided.

    “If both parents in a couple want to work full time then they have to take responsibility for the consequences of that decision, which will include paying for additional childcare.”

    It is not the paying for additional care that bothers me personally, it is the fragmentation of its organisation after the smooth running of nursery that has hit me. In any case, I should note my gratitude to the state for funding 33 hours a week for 38 weeks a year from September, rather than the 15 hours a week we get at present.

    Whether parents “want” to work full-time or not, they may have external pressures to do so. It may be necessary if they want to pay the rent/mortgage, keep their job, or simply keep their skills up to date. In some jobs, a career break can be a career death, if you fall too far behind. Every parent is different and every family is different, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to parenting.

    I don’t argue that the state should subsidise childcare for all working parents for the whole of their working hours (though that would be an interesting discussion to have elsewhere, about the costs/benefits of giving parents financial freedom to work), merely that it could learn from the practices already in place in the private sector, to make what it does provide that much better. This would free more parents to make the best choices for their family.

  • @Rachel Coleman Finch
    “If I seem to confuse education with childcare provision in my piece, so did all the people complaining about the impact on workers of schools closing for strikes a couple of weeks ago”

    Quite. You are wrong and so were they.

  • @Rachel Coleman Finch
    “I think it should be up to the school how best to provide additional childcare/education for the children in their care”

    I think it should be up to the parent how they see fit to look after their children outside the hours of their education. Why do you think that schools have an obligation to look after your kids? Why not the doctors, or the car mechanics? Surely they have a responsibilility to look after your kids when you’re out at work (using your logic)?

  • Well said KL.

    A lof of working mothers seem to have the attitude of ‘wouldn’t kids be absolutely wonderful if I didn’t have to look after them so much!’

  • Liberal Neil 13th Jul '11 - 1:07pm

    @Rachel – I agreed with your point that it would be good if the wrap around childcare was better organised. However I disagree with you that ‘age-appropriate education for under-sevens looks awfully like age-appropriate childcare’ – well it may ‘look’ like it, but it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the same thing. In fact, if young children continue to be given education rather than care for an extra three hours after school it is probably detrimental to them.

    Yes, it should be up to schools or other providers to decide who they employ to provide the care. Given the cost they would be mad to pay teachers to do it!

    On a more general point, a large factor in the level and type of out of hours care in the state sector may simply be down to the market. If the better off 10% are paying the level of fees asked for in the private sector, the amount of fees available in the state sector may simply not be enough to fund the ‘smooth’ system you are suggesting at many state primaries. (I know that our local primary tried out a breakfast club for a while, and even with a subsidy it wasn’t viable).

    @Mike Barnes – and working fathers!

  • My wife’s school stays open until around 7-8pm in the evening, as it rents out its building for the local community to use. If someone wants to run a child-minding business in the school buildings then they are free to do so, provided they pay the costs – e.g. rent, insurance, etc. That is the model that schools should be adopting, but they are under no obligation whatsoever, and never should be, to provide after-hours child-care themselves.

    If parents want their children looking after then there should be nothing stopping them from paying a business to do so, or starting a business themselves. That, surely , is the the liberal solution, rather than suggesting a literal nanny state that discharges the responsibility of parenting from parents. We need greater workforce flexibility for parents – we don’t need everyone else to be flexible (and give more of themselves) to accommodate parents with a sense of entitlement.

  • If schools were to be given the flexibility to arrange their term times around the needs of local industries, then it would quite often end up being a disaster for parents – e.g. if they have two children in two different schools, one of which breaks up for Summer four weeks earlier than the other one, then the parents end up with kids out of school for ten weeks in the Summer instead of six (unless there are numerous schools in the local area providing a wide range of choice of different holidays, which would be extraordinarily unlikely).

  • There’s a lot worth considering in this article, but I’m not sure I totally agree. Those of us who make sacrifices in our lifestyles so we could bring up kids may look on such ideas less charitably I’m afraid.

    Well I tried to make a sacrifice. I asked to work 4 days a week rather than 5, and my wife arranged that she could work 50% and do a lot of that from home. My wife’s employer was very accomadating, mine wasn’t.

    We have the right on paper to request flexible working, but it means nothing as the business case for turning it down can be very flimsy indeed.

    I think we need more employers who employ managers bright enough to be able to cope with a flexible workforce. Some jobs (teaching for example) require core hours to be worked, but many can be done remotely. Having people share a job is a strength as neither will get so tired and burned out as a full time person might.

  • I realize I’m asking for a tongue lashing from feminists but it seems to me that society has c*cked up somewhat.

    I heard recently that much of the additional household income that comes from more women taking on full time work has been spent on housing costs. This will have contributed to house price inflation and has led to a very undesirable situation where women have increasingly less choice but to work and spend less time with their children.

    Nursery from 8 till 6 with no meals eaten with your family, it doesn’t sound like a particularly good deal for a pre-schooler, especially followed by 12 years of school from 8 to 6 with no long holidays. It would have been a nightmare for myself and my sister, we regret not having spent more time with our working father, but to have also missed all that time we spent with our mother would have been awful. Still I guess these children probably don’t know what they’re missing.

  • Old Codger Chris 13th Jul '11 - 4:06pm

    I’m not sure feminists should disagree with your excellent points. While some mums choose to work full-time or virtually so, others are obliged to in order to make ends meet. What kind of “liberation” is that?

    And every job taken by these reluctant employees is one job not available to the unemployed. Good news for employers who can pick staff from a large field without having to pay very much. Bad news for everyone else, including taxpayers and,of course, the unemployed.

  • Old codger Chris- why should it be mums staying at home. My wife works full time, and I stay at home to look after our son.

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 13th Jul '11 - 10:04pm

    @KL “The priority in setting up school working hours … should be what’s best for children. ”

    I agree that teaching should be organised by what’s best for children, and I know that school is tiring for children. I am not arguing for more hours of teaching, but a more integrated approach to the childcare on offer, using the example of nursery provision which manages to fit in education, play and rest in a balanced way over the course of the day.

    When I say I’m getting a worse service, I mean a worse administrative service. The teaching is good, and the attention to individual children and their needs as they transition is great.

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 13th Jul '11 - 10:22pm


    “is it too much to ask that you are responsible for parenting them and for paying for the costs of any care”

    “Why do you think that schools have an obligation to look after your kids?”

    Where did I say parents shouldn’t pay for the extra care? In fact, I explicitly drew attention to the difference between the existing, state-funded, core academic teaching time, and the extra time that a parent working full-time requires childcare. I do not say that schools have an obligation to look after my child; but if they chose to offer additional childcare at a charge to parents, I believe this would be very popular. I would rather give my money to the school than an assortment of ‘clubs’: and I would rather my child were able to stay on the same site, perhaps with staff sharing the same school ethos and sensitivity to the needs of children who’ve been learning all day.

    Most nurseries manage the provision of state-funded Ofsted-inspected education and integrate it smoothly with full-time childcare. The only schools that seem to do anything like this are private: why? Why don’t we aspire to make it easier for all parents, not just rich ones, to go out and work if that’s the best thing for them and their family?

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 13th Jul '11 - 10:34pm

    @Liberal Neil

    “if young children continue to be given education rather than care for an extra three hours after school it is probably detrimental to them.”

    Which is why age-appropriate education includes appropriate time for rest and play, as well as formal learning. What I mean by it being a continuum is that children learn so much during free play, during casual conversation with their parents, from the bedtime story and even CBeebies. None of this is ‘formal’ education, or anything unusual in a childcare setting, but it is definitely learning.

    “the amount of fees available in the state sector may simply not be enough”

    This could be so. Yet there seem to be so many competing organisations offering out-of-school childcare that I feel schools ought to be able to exploit the demand, even if just by partnering with one of them …

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 13th Jul '11 - 10:57pm


    “Nursery from 8 till 6 with no meals eaten with your family, it doesn’t sound like a particularly good deal for a pre-schooler ”

    From observation, there seem to be few-to-no children who are in nursery for the whole of the 8-6 opening time; even the full-timers tend to be ‘staggered’ with a later start or an earlier finish. As for meals: young children eat little and often. My son usually has breakfast with us, second breakfast at nursery if we get him there in time, lunch and tea there, a snack on the way home and supper at home with us again.

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 13th Jul '11 - 11:18pm

    @Kate Sutton I really like the idea of adjusting teaching hours to suit teenage biology. I’d certainly love to see if a trial here replicated the Californian results, but like you I don’t see an immediate fix to how to get them to school on time if the parent(s) are already at work. Older children might be able to get themselves up and out alone, but it really depends on the child; it’s probably not right for the 11-year-olds in first-year secondary, but fine for the 15-year-olds in the final year of GCSEs. A breakfast club for sleepy teens might bridge the gap but might also be challenging to run.

  • Childcare is the responsibilty of the parent NOT the state, hilst the state is there to help as much as we as a country can afford it is not there to do the parents job. Under the current financial constraints there is not the money for extras so this would have to be fully funded by parents and the cost would be similar to private childcare that is already available. Schools (in Scotland) do not provide childcare, their budget is for the school and providing education, any wrap around care that is provided is seperate from the school and delivered by the local council using school properties where available. Most places (excepting very small rural areas (where I live) have good private provission available for childcare but most local authorities still try to offer reduced rate wrap around care to help parents. To make this affordable (not make a profit) before/after and holiday clubs need to be well attended all year round so that the child care workers wages, the insurances, the janitorial staff the lighting/heating costs food bills etc are all met. Over the coming years we may see more school clubs etc closed as councils can’t find the money to pay for them.

    Opening times in schools are not there to suit the teachers or the parents, in primary the times are set to suit the child, by 3.10 primary aged children are often tired and burned out and by the end of term need their holidays to recuperate. Scottish teachers will no longer be paid for 12 weeks holiday a year there is a new agreement in place that means that teachers will lose 26 days holiday a year so will recieve 7 weeks paid holiday. The myth that teachers work 35 hours per week aparently allows for everyone to be an expert on teaching and teachers. A very poor teacher may attempt to work 35h per week but will fail the children in their class. I know in my school our 35h is covered in school so all planning and marking has to be done in our on time or within the 2.5h non class contact when you manage to get it. School holidays are prep time, organising resources, setting up classrooms etc.

    Perhaps parents should be required to staff the wrap around care, a rota could be arranged, the council could pay the heating/lighting/insurance/food etc costs but the parents cover the staffing costs by providing the care themselves. If you feel that you could not arrange this due to work commitments, money etc then please ask yourselves how and why you expect the state/teachers/nursery workers to do this for you. If you want these people to work extra hours you have to pay them, they are no different than yourselves and have a contract that pays them for the work that they do. In private schools staff are paid a higher wage to reflect the longer hours over the course of the week and they are given longer holidays.

    As with everything money plays a primary role and we can’t cover everything.

  • I think there is a related issue – the unwillingness of employers to consider part-time workers and more flexible hours. I know many, many parents who would prefer to work three or four day weeks but their requests get turned down. In addition, in some companies you feel you can’t even ask – in the City for instance. There are some fantastic companies that are flexible – BT comes to mind – but my experience is that when I’ve put in requests for part-time working it has been turned down. So the reality is the choice is between full-time work and putting children into all these clubs or no work at all. I opted to work full-time. I had hoped that one benefit of the economic downturn was that more flexible working requests would be approved – but it seems employers prefer to get rid of full-time workers.

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 14th Jul '11 - 1:46pm

    @Eileen Ward-Birch As I’ve said repeatedly, I think every family is different and there are no “one size fits all” models for a family. I would call no-one “the devil incarnate” just because they made a different work/life balance choice than my own: what’s liberal about that? I respect every family’s choices, but I am frustrated by state school provision being apparently built around one model and one model only.

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 14th Jul '11 - 1:57pm

    @Steve “schools … are under no obligation whatsoever, and never should be, to provide after-hours child-care themselves.”

    I am not arguing that schools all should be FORCED to provide after-hours childcare. I am wondering what the barriers preventing them are, by comparison with nursery which clearly doesn’t have those barriers, and private schools which also seem to overcome them. It seems obvious to me that many parents who need to pay someone to look after their child around school hours would rather pay the school than an assortment of separate organisations. The advantages of staff working under the same roof and with the same school ethos, and the unified administration and payments ought to make it a no-brainer, and yet it doesn’t seem to exist outside the private sector.

  • Old Codger Chris 14th Jul '11 - 6:12pm

    Old codger Chris- why should it be mums staying at home. My wife works full time, and I stay at home to look after our son.

    Fair point Rannkersbo – I should have said that my remarks apply equally to situations where the femail half of the partnership is the sole – or main – breadwinner.

  • Ruth Bright 14th Jul '11 - 9:47pm

    Generally the coalition is pretty disparaging about women who are “economically inactive” – not that the government has any childcare strategy to make the passage into work easier. From this thread it appears that nothing much has changed since the 50s when it comes to society’s ability to sneer simultaneously at mothers who work outside the home (and supposedly let down their kids) AND those who are full-time mothers (and therefore out-of-step with all the bilge about alarm-clock Britain).

    We just can’t win can we girls?

  • @Eileen Ward-Birch – the problem really now is that in most parts of the country you need two incomes to be able to afford a mortgage for a family house and a car is virtually a necessity (especially where supermarkets have moved from the High Street to out-of-town centres.) Consequently, many parents simply don’t have the choice.

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 15th Jul '11 - 3:22pm

    @KL “my council, Fife, have got it pretty much right”

    A belated thank you for giving me an example to investigate. I missed saying so in all the other discussion.

  • Old Codger Chris 16th Jul '11 - 2:06am

    “the problem really now is that in most parts of the country you need two incomes to be able to afford a mortgage for a family house and a car is virtually a necessity”

    I can’t argue with that, but most of us enjoy a degree of comfort which was unimagineable only a generation or two ago. Warm, well furnished homes, a huge choice of food in well stocked supermarkets, PCs like the one I’m using to write this, affordable and instant global communication, holidays abroad etc. And,obviously, a car – except in big cities, who wants to wait for a bus? Assuming there is one?

    So many things are so much better today but there is a price to pay – and not just in fewer buses for those poor souls without a car.

    We’ve allowed ourselves to become consumption junkies. The economy needs us to buy, buy, buy. So more of us need to work as demand pushes up the price of genuine essentials – including housing, where prices are governed by how much the banks will lend us. Since there are not enough jobs to go round – a problem which will only increase over time – wages are depressed and unemployment can only rise. Half the population – men – have long been wage slaves while women were kitchen slaves. Today, most men and women are wage slaves.

    What’s the connection between this rant and children? Simply that some hardly see their parents while others live in households where nobody has a job, probably never will have a job, and thus unemployment is a way of life. To prevent the unemployed from starving the wage slaves must, of course, pay more taxes.

    And don’t get me started on those parents who see children as just another commodity and some kind of inalienable right, where any problem must be the fault of someone else (probably the school). Of course there a great many good parents, but I’m frankly surprised that so many children turn out to be well adjusted adults. Shame about those who don’t…….

  • angryteacher 17th Jul '11 - 5:54pm

    If people think they have the right to have children when they can’t give them the time they deserve as their parents, then that is their problem entirely, not the problem of the schools. If the parents cannot afford to give the child this time, then they don’t have the right to have them and they should deal with it. LIke the original post, stated, we are in the 21st century. We are above the need for children as status symbols by now surely? And spawning because we’re scared of being alone in our old age? Either you have the time and money to invest in the privilege – not the right – of a child – or you don’t, in which case, use your brain and don’t have them, but certainly don’t whine because a selfish whim to have children you don’t have the time/money to deal with with is now hard on you. My heart bleeds for you.

  • Teachers are not child care providers – their purpose is to provide children with an education. As far as I am aware the subject of their completed their degrees or postgrads is EDUCATION and not child care!

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 22nd Jul '11 - 8:43pm

    @Rosie Nowhere in my piece did I suggest the additional childcare should be provided by teachers. Not all school employees are teachers – dinner ladies (or whatever the gender-neutral phrase is these days – lunchtime assistants?) are the obvious example of staff who take care of children in order to free up teacher time.

    Given the plethora of out-of-hours and holiday clubs around, what stops state schools considering a plan to hire play workers themselves and offer a competing service? It would be better for the children (they stay on school premises), better for parents (who can pay one monthly bill, and trust the school to employ good staff), and should more than cover the additional staffing costs to the school.

  • nightingale 28th Jul '11 - 8:49am

    Sorry but I just don’t believe that teachers do work so much harder than nurses, nursery workers, firemen or anyone else. There’s this amazing myth propogated by them as this is the only way to justify huge holidays. Its not as if they have weekend or overnight shifts.

    And I just do not buy this idea that teachers are educators not childcare people. Education is just what you’re doing while you’re childcaring. And if there is already enough of that in a school day then supervise some more playtime.

    The idea that working parents made choices so they should pay for after school childcare is silly. Teachers get paid for 52 weeks a year already! Or pass laws that give everyone 14 weeks off and I’d be delighted to play with my kids myself. On the ‘kids need a rest point’ – it would be better to have more shorter terms and more shorter holidays. That’s how ‘rest’ works and 2 weeks holiday at a time is easier for parents to cover than 6 or 7.

    And Inset Days are just two fingers to working parents. 6 weeks holiday in August and my school has 2 inset days in September!

    All aocieties need children and workforces or they fall apart and simpky cease to be. So teachers should realise they ought to be supporting both. Including the workforce side of things.

  • Jimmy White 15th Dec '14 - 3:15pm

    School holidays fill me with rage year after year. This year, my wife and I are expected to cover over 70 days of holiday.
    Thanks to the economic collapse, both of us now have to work full time to make ends meet, we already have to pay for childcare outside of school hours, and simply cant afford the inflated costs that child carers (read kids clubs etc) charge during holiday times. We don’t have relatives that cant help, and we have a lot of friends in the same situation.
    Thanks to the nanny state, no one wants to look after each others kids because they may end up liable for some injury or trauma (What the hell was wrong with Darwinism? That’s how we evolved..) and to be honest, I want to spend time with my kids, not someone else’s..
    This isn’t about how hard teacher’s work, I know a LOT of teachers (I work with schools) some work really hard and some are bone idle, which reflects a great many industries to be honest. Its not about schools being child carers.
    I agree kids need a rest. So do adults. At least be sensible and set a policy that is achievable, allows working parents to take time off as a family, i.e. all together, at the same time, and encourage the family unit.
    Current policies only encourage exploitation of those families unlucky enough not to be able to afford a stay at home parent (and no, this isn’t about ‘choice’ its a ‘situation’ engineered but the current economical climate, don’t even get me started on the narrow minded fools that spout such gibberish) or childcare out of school time. They support the whole childcare industry that has sprung up and is grossly un-regulated (in terms of fees) with whole areas having ‘carers meetings’ where they effectively price fix childcare in their locality, together with t&cs that only benefit themselves!

    UTC (University technical colleges, a new breed of school) are making inroads here in aligning themselves more with a working day, which helps prepare their students for life in the real world and alleviates some of the cost and pressures of child care from working parents.
    What we now need is a policy to expand on this ethos, that narrows the divide, improves the quality of family life and removes stress. Rather than sending children home to do work, why not simply extend the school day to allow them to do it in an environment where they can obtain assistance from teachers and their peers? Then they would have a much better quality of life at home, with more time to spend with the family.
    Or maybe I am spouting rubbish, maybe family isn’t important. Maybe its more important to produce statistics and figures that make authorities look good. Maybe we don’t actually matter at all….

    I’m sure that there are a lot of short-sighted people that will try and argue that ‘you shouldn’t have kids if you cant look after them’ and ‘schools aren’t childcare’
    Clearly then, you haven’t read what I or others have said, and have no interest nor understanding in anything outside of your own tiny elitist little worlds.

  • To all the comments about how hard the teachers work: Most people work hard, many more than 48h a week for various reasons, and yet they all have only 4 weeks holidays. Yes, managing 30 kids must be tough, but think about all people doing physical jobs, all day cleaning or lifting heavy things – that’s not easy job either. It is not a competition who has tougher job. At least those inset days could be included in the half terms! And the article wasn’t about teachers per se, but about the whole system. I agree that it is not 19th century and both parents work nowadays. Childcare should be easier and cheaper as in most cases it is actually better to sit at home on benefits then work around the school and pay for childcare, think about how much that is costing taxpayers. I won’t even go into single parenting topic, as like it was said how can single parent find 14 weeks off (18 in receprion!) or afford paying for childcare. Yes you need to take care of your own kids and their childcare but what if you are working and cannot afford it? Monthly childcare costs the same as typical low wage salary. Many european countries have included or at least very affordable childcare around school. So it is possible.

  • @jimmy white – fantastic comment! Agree with everything!

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