Better Late Than Never



I remember my school days like they were yesterday, don't get me wrong, I loved every minute of them, but after lunch was over I did spend much of my time clock watching. You just can't help it, it happens to the best of us, when work or school is drawing to an end it's easy to find yourself counting the minutes. Schools days today typically finish around three, which gives children plenty of time to go home, spend time with their family & procrastinate, what more could you want?! Longer hours in school. Today there is much debate on whether our children should be studying for longer, although they spend on average around 6-7 hours learning, it is possible that this just isn't enough...

There are a number of reasons why change should not be celebrated, the first and foremost being one of the most important... stress. Children need around 10 hours of sleep a night, a healthy child is a happy child and their day finishing at three means there's plenty of time for them to do all that's needed to keep their body and brain satisfied. Finishing at 5, or starting earlier could disrupt the pattern that seems to work so well five days a week. There are just 24 hours in a day. School in itself takes up around 8 of those hours with travel to and from school & with sleep included that could leave just 6 hours a day for physical activity, developing social skills, learning life skills, family time & participating in extra curricular activities, which lets be honest are just as important as school.

So what happens if the children get tired? They get restless. If they get restless it's very unlikely that they will listen. Of course there's the argument that eventually each individual would adjust to a longer school day and the body clock would find it easier but how would we implement such an idea when for years it's been 3pm? Would we introduce it to the starters but continue to let the later pupils finish at their usual time, or would everyone have to follow the same rules? not only this but we must consider the age of the children, a 15-year-old would probably be able to cope far better with a later finish than someone of 6, so would it only be the high school students that face the change of school times? It's a difficult topic, adding more hours doesn't guarantee that anyone will work harder, of course they have no choice but to sit and learn but it doesn't guarantee that they will take it all in.

It's not just the children we should be worried about either, would teachers even benefit from longer days altogether? Teachers already work some of the longest hours of any profession with many putting in 50 to 60 hours a week and they too need time to recharge their batteries. With home and lesson work to mark after the final bell rings it's difficult to understand how any individual will be able to keep up with the new flow if they're tired and over worked. Plus there's the expense... longer hours mean admin, caretakers, teachers, assistants and supply staff must all be paid for all the work they do and realistically can we afford it?!

However when when it comes to children's learning abilities money should not be an option. Although many are against the idea of schools being that little bit longer there are many that would argue it should. Yes educators would have to spend more hours behind the school gates but this would give the children more time to cover topics they may struggle with or not be so sure about. More time in class would mean more support. Homework could be covered with a teacher and it doesn't mean that those extra hours HAVE to be draining. Children could have the option to do something that they enjoy, extra curricular activities, reading, writing or even something that encourages them to be that little bit more proactive, which today is a big worry considering many of us spend so much time in front of a screen. Although it could be argued that these are already covered in 'after school' clubs, every child has a different situation at home and some may not have the opportunity to choose whether they immerse themselves in extra learning.

Then obviously there's the strong point that more studying may result in better tests scores and better test scores mean an advantage in later life. Work starts earlier and ends later than education, so preparing them for these ways of life is essential. Plus what if there was no homework? Projects would be far less rushed and children could feel at ease completing all school work under an adults supervision, meaning when they collapse on the couch after a full day of hard work, they don't have to get up and do ANY more (until tomorrow!) With this in mind, it would successfully diminish any doubts that later school finishes would damage important family time as there would be no home study to do. We're also forgetting an important point that many parents don't even finish their own jobs until 5ish, so surely this would help to support them in earning a living? While parents worry at their desks, many kids go home to empty houses, not forgetting that child minders and after school care can prove to be extremely expensive so if we were to keep them in school for that little bit longer everyone's a winner!

Let's be honest, your child probably won’t jump for joy at the thought of a longer school day, but having the time to study fun stuff as well as the core material necessary to pass standardized exams wins over many sceptics. The advantages of a longer school year/day are obvious, but how we’d implement it is less clear. A number of things have to fall into place: parents have to want it, teachers have to agree to work longer hours and schools have to find additional funding. There are both arguable points to both sides of this story and I can understand why many people find themselves sitting on the fence or even hiding behind it, regardless of whether we implement this strategy what's most important is that the children get the most out of whatever is offered to them in whatever time span they're faced with.