I’ve always been interested in education. Mine changed my life, and ultimately that of my own family. It was a gateway into worlds I could never have imagined. Since going to the University of Southampton from South London Secondary School, I never looked back. I shall forever be grateful to my teachers and lecturers from Primary School to University. I have served many years as a Governor and been involved in some education experiments which had they made it to their full potential could have been seismic. It has been hugely insightful.
One thing that has been reinforced throughout my life is that education is and should be constantly evolving. Things have not always been as they are.
It was back in 1880 that children were first compelled to attend school up to the age of 10 in England and Wales. This was raised to 12 around the turn of the century.
The slow evolution continued. In 1918 the mandatory age for full time education was raised again to 14 years old and then in 1944 it nudged up one more year to 15.
Fast forward to 2022 we still ask students in the UK to stay in education until they are 18 but after the age of 16, students are able to choose a variety of education paths, for example going to vocational college, or starting a workplace apprenticeship.
So we know that nothing stays the same in education over time. Such flux can and should apply to all aspects of education including the length of the school day and the nature of the summer holidays.
My personal view is that that’s a good thing and so I was really interested to see the trial announced in Wales last week of a longer school day. The announcement, made by Welsh Education Minister Jeremy Miles, signalled that 13 primary and secondary schools and one college would take part in a pilot scheme which would add 5 hours a week to the school week. In all, 1,800 children will experience a longer school day for 10 weeks with the extra hours comprising both non-academic enrichment such as music, art, and sports as well as more regular lessons.
I can’t wait to see how this trial goes. We must be mindful of hard working teachers, many on the edge of burnout after the Covid-19 pandemic, and financial resources need to be identified if this experiment is to be rolled out further in Wales and beyond. In simple terms, I think both the length of the school day, and the structure of the annual 6 week summer holiday can and should be reviewed and that’s why as I said on GB News I really welcome this innovative experiment by the Welsh Government and I can’t wait to see what it delivers.
Kevin Craig is CEO and Founder of PLMR. He has served on the Senate and Council of the University of Southampton, and as a Governor of St Francis Xavier 6th Form College and the then Durand Academy.