A former top advisor to David Cameron has proposed a substantial lengthening of the school day in order to win votes at the next general election.
Former head of policy development at Number Ten Paul Kirby said a single-sentence promise should be made by any politician who wants to win the next election: "From September 2016, all state funded schools will, by law, provide 45 hours of education per week for 45 weeks of the year."
Mr Kirby believes such a policy will be popular with the general public and will attract women voters between the ages of 30 and 45. He said it would demonstrate that politicians are on the side of families and would help the country win the global economic race.
The move would be able to be implemented relatively easily and would be reasonably inexpensive - and evidence from the US shows that it would work, he claimed.
Under the proposals, children would work from nine until six, or 8.30 until 5.30. Mr Kirby said this is a reasonable figure, because it would mean only a third of a child's waking hours would be spent at school.
It would give parents the chance to do full-time jobs and would help to boost female employment, which in recent decades has failed to grow at the same rate as during the 1970s and 80s. Such a move would also give those in teaching jobs the same working day as "other hard-working professionals".
Mr Kirby said the changes would also benefit pupils. A longer school day would allow pupils to do homework during school hours, addressing the concerns of those who believe only middle-class children benefit from homework. Shorter school holidays would ensure poorer pupils, whose attainment has been shown to fall back during long breaks, keep up with their peers.
Teachers would benefit as, with longer hours, lessons would be less rushed and more relaxed, with more time to explain subjects to pupils.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We are already giving all schools the freedom to set the length of the school day and term. Many academies and free schools offer extended opening hours, and we want more schools to take up these freedoms."
Posted by Tim Colman