Longer school day: Permanent detention for everyone?

By Tony Hudson

Michael Gove has proposed extending the school day as part of a plan to modernise British education.

The education secretary claimed the school day was too short, and summer holidays were too long when compared with other nations who outperform the UK academically.

"We have been reviewing our curriculum recently and we've noticed that in Hong Kong, in Singapore and in other East Asian nations, the expectations of mathematical and scientific knowledge at every stage are more demanding than this country," he said in a speech to the Spectator conference.

"School days are longer, school holidays are shorter. The expectation is that to succeed, hard work is at the heart of everything."

He went on to say British schoolchildren were running the "global race in a way that ensures that we start with a significant handicap".

When asked about possible changes, Gove claimed the current system was designed when Britain still had an agricultural economy.

"It was also at a time when the majority of mums stayed home," he added.

"That world no longer exists, and we can't afford to have an education system that was essentially, set in the 19th century."

He maintained some of the best schools in the country have already adopted such measures as evidence for its efficacy.

Gove claimed the proposals would not only help children achieve more academically but would also be family-friendly and would even help teachers, although given his well documented lack of popularity with teachers it is unlikely they will be receptive.

With strikes looming from teaching unions NASUWT and NUT, Gove did not shy away from confrontational rhetoric.

When asked about strikes, he said the two unions were trying to prove which was the most radical in an appeal for membership, and challenged them to come up with a better education system.

"Prove me wrong," he said regarding union criticism of his education plans.

"Set up a free school. If the NUT were to set up a free school, we would find them a building, we would fund it."