AT ONE time it used to be said that British workers were working such long hours that they did not have an opportunity to spend time with their children, who hardly knew their fathers, in particular.
It was mooted that progress would mean a cut in working hours and a working week approaching the French model of 35 hours.
All this dangerous propaganda has been overthrown by the Blair government, which has taken great pride in opting out of the EU’s maximum 48-hour working week, and boasts that ‘its workers’ are going to be the most flexible, not only in Europe, but in the industrialised world – whether they like it or not.
The Blair government is now taking steps to deal with the question of what is happening to the children, and their pressure on parents to reduce their working hours so as to spend more time with them.
Labour policy on this issue is to have two aspects. The first is outright repression. They already have in their hands a number of weapons; the Asbos and the curfews with youths under 16 not allowed onto the streets in a number of areas after 9pm at night, supplemented by new measures imposed by local businessmen, such as barring youth from shopping centres entirely, or stopping youth wearing ‘menacing’ articles of clothing.
But this is not good enough for the bosses and bankers, who want their ‘flexible’ labour force to have anti-long hours pressures removed from it.
This is the origin of the Ruth Kelly (one of the Opus Dei representatives in the Cabinet) plan to impose a 10 hour day on school children from 8am in the morning to 6pm at night – a fifty-hour week to match up with their parents’ 48-hours-plus working weeks.
The pre- and post- formal classroom periods, we are informed, are to be devoted to breakfasts, suppers, games, sports, drama, educational trips, projects of all kinds and homework.
These extra hours are allegedly not going to be supervised by teachers, but by professional companies specially brought in to do the the job, and by volunteers.
No doubt, the first aspect of Labour policy, Asbos, will play a role in this development; in reverse this time.
Instead of being banned from an area, the culprit will not be allowed to leave the school area between 8am and 6pm.
Under the £680 million scheme, volunteers or private companies will supervise the pupils’ extra-curricular activities, with the privateers pocketing this part of the education budget.
Even the NUT’s spokesman had to observe: ‘The £680 million sounds like new money but across 23,000 schools, it will be spread very thinly.’ Won’t it just – at under £30,000 a year per school.
And what of the costs of the extensive vetting that will be required of all of the volunteers before they can be allowed contact on a daily basis with schoolchildren, without their parents or teachers being present?
The NUT spokesman added: ‘Teachers are already overburdened but control over the provision must remain with the schools to ensure that there’s no conflict or undermining of the primary purpose of the school which is to educate children.’
But this is something that the privateers, doing the job to make a profit, will object to.
There is also an anti-parent aspect to Kelly’s plan. This is that parents are a big part of the problem that the government is having with youth.
As Kelly told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The best schools are delivering extended services already. . . They know that children will be better placed to achieve their full potential if they are in child care that allows them to complete their homework, keep fit and healthy and have fun.’
Presumably, the children can have none of these things if they are at home with their parents.
There is one sure solution to this problem. It is to cut the working week to 35 hours, instead of inflating it to more than 48, then parents and children will be at home at the same time, for a lot of the time.
Labour, the businessmen’s party, will have nothing to do with this sedition.
It prefers to bring in what will be little more than holding centres for youth, while their parents ‘perform their duty for their employers’.