Gove Needs to Learn About Teachers

21/04/2013 15:34 BST | Updated 20/06/2013 10:12 BST

So Michael Gove is proposing to reduce so-called 'holidays' for schools. That makes me wonder if he has any knowledge of how hard state school teachers actually work? Surely he does not believe that the contractual 195 days and 1265 hours a year represents what actually happens?

While it is common for people to lament teachers 'knocking off at 3.30' and 'getting six weeks in the summer', the very large number of state school teachers I know have very different lives. They work well after 3.30 each day, often into the early hours, and certainly every evening. Some then rise before it is light to work again, before they arrive at school well before those they teach. A weekday of 8.30 or 8.45 to 3.30 is a myth. They also work one or both days at the weekend. They work a significant part of the school 'holidays', often the majority of the time. How many of the people who moan about teachers' 'holidays' and 'short days', I wonder, work in their evenings, on their weekends, and during their holidays?

Consequently, if school 'holidays' are reduced, then the impact on preparation and planning would be significant. Far from improving results, it might well damage them. Christine Blower has suggested that the longer holidays for private schools do not seem to be harming them. Perhaps the opposite is true? Of course, the fundamental drivers of private schools' achievement are their incredible resources, small class sizes, and (for most private school pupils) highly priveliged intake. But perhaps the reduced contact time in such schools actually allows teachers even more time to plan and prepare, and has some further bearing on results?

Too many of the current government have at best limited experience of state schools. They didn't go to them themselves, don't send their children to them, and have little other contact with those who work in them. Michael Gove himself went to a private school, even if on a scholarship in his final year. I have no idea what choices he has made for his own children. But in any case, as secretary of state for education he has a duty to be informed about the school system for which he is responsible and the people who work in it. So instead of ignorantly pandering to the ill-informed people who moan about teachers' holidays, Mr Gove needs to gain a proper knowledge of the lives and workloads of state school teachers if he wishes to advance standards.