Parents and teachers reject call for longer school hours

Would extended school hours make life easier for working parents?

Would extended school hours make life easier for working parents?

Parent and teacher groups are united in their rejection of a call to accommodate working parents by extending school hours.

The proposal to extend school hours to 6pm was raised by New South Wales MP Jordan Lane, who described the current 9am to 3pm arrangements as a “relic of a sexist, bygone era”.

The Parenthood’s Georgie Dent. Photo: Georgie Dent

But Georgie Dent, chief executive of parent advocacy group The Parenthood, said Mr Lane’s call sidesteps more obvious solutions for working parents.

“We are not for a minute suggesting that we would like to see actual school hours to be expanded or extended, but we would like there to be access to decent outside hours care for families who need it,” she said.

“We know for a lot of families it is almost impossible to combine paid work with school hours if you don’t have access to either outside school hours care or activities, so you need to potentially get a nanny or rope in grandparents.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating the price and availability of centre-based care and outside of school hours care. Its interim report is due to Treasurer Jim Chalmers by the end of the month.

The investigation was ordered after the closure of childcare centres earlier this year and ongoing placement shortages and rising costs.

In addition to extending school operating hours, Mr Lane said schools could also become hubs for after-school activities, allowing parents to work longer days.

“By engaging providers and community organisations, we avoid overworking our tirelessly hard-working teachers, but expose more children to rounded experiences, such as coding classes, culture and language, art, dance, music and sport,” he said.

But Angelo Gavrielatos, president of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, said it would ultimately mean more work for teachers.

“While we support the use of our schools for such purposes, we cannot have additional work and expectations heaped onto our already overworked, stretched and stressed teachers and principals,” he said.

“Mr Lane fails to acknowledge that school hours, their start and finish times, already differ from school to school, from suburb to suburb, and these variations reflect historical and other contemporary issues in each location; including bus timetables which students rely on to get to and from school.

“He also fails to acknowledge that changing a school’s formal operating times is not a straightforward thing, as what might satisfy one parent may not necessarily satisfy many, if not most others.”

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