Michael Gove: the Grinch who stole the Summer Holiday

It may be a reliable presumption that if the NUT is against something, then it must be right, but there comes a time when the leftie teaching union has a valid point, such as voicing opposition to Education Secretary Michael Gove’s most recent pronouncement (echoed by his loyal chorus) that schools should run longer working days and shorter summer holidays.

Gove claims that, as children are no longer sent out to work in the fields, then it is no longer permissible that children remain at large for such a long period, if we are to produce a generation of Nietzchean Ubermenschen to compete with the Oriental nations. However, looking closer to home, in the top private schools in England and the state system of the country of Finland, which usually ranks first in results, you find shorter days and longer holidays.  Additionally, the school starting age in Finland is seven – considerably older than in England.

From the libertarian point of view, the ideological struggle over state education is a fight between two factions of authoritarians. The fundamental problem is the state system itself. Without the imposition of the state-run quasi-monopoly, schools would run their affairs independently, and no doubt come to different conclusions as to hours of attendance and length of holiday, as well as syllabus and philosophical orientation, and parents would be able to choose a school that most closely fit their own and their children’s requirements.

Today’s teachers, whose mundane work can often be stressful, are having their jobs made more difficult by the impositions of state central-planning, with its reams of bureaucracy and its Stalinesque inspections. No doubt the government’s entrenched enemies in the educational establishment exercise a malign influence over the schools, but the solution to this will not come from Gove attempting to over-ride this influence with his own ideological pedagogy. This will only add burdens. The solution can only come from breaking up the quasi-monopoly.

Speaking from my own recollection, the best thing about school was the long summer holiday, and I pity today’s children, whose every waking hour is being organised and supervised. Let them find their own interests and develop their own personalities. Leave them in peace!


  1. Don’t get me started on Gove… Oh alright then… He’s horrendous. His main objective is to make every school in the country dependent on and obedient to the government, to prevent the opening of any more genuinely independent schools and to corrupt as many of the existing ones as possible. This would be bad enough, except that the media consistently attack him for attempting to “privatise” education, which is perfectly obviously not what he is doing; as with healthcare and everything else it is the fascist economic model they are aiming for, colloquially known as public-private partnership.

    And it stands to reason that a fascist wants to spend the rest of his time producing mindless central government dictats which will only make things worse.

    Hate hate hate.

    The free speech thing? Pure self interest. He started as a journalist, so free speech is his blind spot.



  2. “However, looking closer to home, in the top private schools in England… you find shorter days and longer holidays.”

    With all due respect, this is bollocks. My standard school day was from 8.30 to 6.15pm: not all of this was in the classroom, but then the great thing about decent private schools—and, in truth, this is why they are superior to state schools—is that they do not consider that the most learning comes from children inhabiting classrooms.




    1. Okay. I wasn’t sure about that, but I have heard terms are shorter (and thus holidays longer). Perhaps you could let me know if this is bollocks too.



  3. It’s good to read some common sense on this, Richard.

    I’m sure that Michael Gove has good points, but I never cease to be amazed that people on the right – and even those who have libertarian tendencies, like Hannan – seem to think that everything he says is good.

    His latest ideas will basically have the effect of ensuring that children in state schools will spend more time under the tutelage of the state. Since most teachers are statists – and would consider themselves to be well to the left of Michael Gove – this means that children will spend more time in an environment where they are subject to leftist and statist influence.

    And it is not just that teachers are leftists. Education increasingly is seen by government as being a useful tool of social engineering (See Frank Furedi’s book “Wasted: Why Education isn’t Educating“). For most of the past 15 years, government has been largely in the hands of progressives, and while the Conservative Party are in government at the moment, there is a good chance that they will be out of power in 2015 – possibly for a decade.

    Gove is not only intent on using the power of the central state to impose his will on schools. He is also strengthening the hands of progressive social engineers.



    1. Thanks for your kind words.

      “For most of the past 15 years, government has been largely in the hands of progressives”

      I’d say for the past century. Melanie Phillips’ book ‘All Must Have Prizes’, written in the mid ’90s indicates that the Conservative government did very little to change the system, due to the entrenched positions of the educational establishment, teacher training etc.



    2. “His latest ideas will basically have the effect of ensuring that children in state schools will spend more time under the tutelage of the state.”

      Precisely. And there is endless pressure for people to stay in education for longer: more indoctrination time all round and it’s only making people thicker (according to disgruntled employers rather than test scores). The education system is failing therefore we need more of it, or so they think.



  4. And, on the subject of holidays and the length of school days, there is some variation.

    I was speaking to someone recently who was at a private school about a quarter of a century ago, as a day pupil. Compared to the local authority schools in the area, the length of the school day was pretty much the same. But this particular private school had about 5 extra weeks of holiday over the course of the year. Interestingly enough, that difference has been eroded over the years – and the long summer holiday at the private school is not what it was.



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