Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: TOM GUTTERIDGE

HOW wonderful - yet another hour of the wretched half-term holiday to fill.

After time went backwards yesterday morning, Jo and I desperately tried to think of ways to keep our household asleep. Short of giving everyone a dose of Valium, we couldn't come up with a solution, and as a result Izzy and the three dogs bounced into our room at 6.30am, ready for exercise and entertainment.

We tried reasoning with them all: It's not getting-up-time for another hour, we said, indicating the newly-turned-back alarm clock, but they wouldn't be told. Izzy pointed at the dawn streaming through the window, while the dogs turned threatening little circles by the front door. Time waits for neither dog nor Rice Krispies. So much for the "lie in" the BBC weatherman promised us the night before.

This has added even more time to what was always going to be a very long week. Why, it seems only the day before yesterday that we dropped Izzy off at school to start her Year One, and already a sixth of that year has passed.

I'm not quite sure where our system of school holidays began, but you can bet it's rooted in some bygone era when children were expected to go and work in the fields, rather than have them hanging around the house waiting to be ferried to the movies.

That might explain Britain's crazy educational calendar. In the good old days children were useful slaves, obligingly toiling for us down on the farm whenever the seasons dictated.

Our long summer holiday was nothing to do with Swallows and Amazons, and everything to do with child labour. I could just imagine Izzy's reaction if I told her she had to spend this week in the garden sweeping the leaves and doing the pruning.

It really is time we brought our academic timetable into the modern age.

We start the school day absurdly early and finish before four o'clock only because, I'm guessing, that's the way Victorian farming communities and factories determined it. Otherwise I doubt our 19th century educational reforms would have got to the starting gate.

Yet most working parents now have a 9. …

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