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Why we should scrap school summer hol...

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Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Wednesday, 02 May, 2007 - 10:56 pm:   

Having taken Baggy's guide to local pubs off on a bender with my idea about introducing an blood-alcohol limit for being out in public (see several post in that thread starting 30th April 2007 if you're interested), I thought I'd better follow Robwinton's advice and start a new thread, but as we've probably given that first idea a decent grilling already I thought I'd make use of this new 'beyond SE23' area and start a thread dedicated to such seemingly ridiculous but arguably serious ideas.

Today's idea is to scrap school summer holidays. Well perhaps keep a couple of weeks, but chop off a month and give kids an extra month of schooling per year instead. One extra month per year from age five to sixteen adds up to a whole extra year of schooling. What an advantage this would give British kids competing for jobs in the big wide world.

Teachers, so often whining about low pay, also win, as I also propose paying them more and/or hiring more teachers to cover for the extra teaching needed.

Parents also don't do badly. We might have to cough up a few quid more in tax to pay for the teachers, but then again parents will save hundreds of pounds each year that they would otherwise have spent on keeping the kids occupied. Single parents and kids of single parents, for whom our anachronistic school holidays were certainly not designed, perhaps benefit most as they are unable to spend most of the extra time together anyway.

And that helps the general population too. Kids are meaningfully and socially engaged in school rather than smashing up bus shelters and stabbing each other to relieve the boredom and loneliness.

Just might work?

Other such brainwaves are welcome in this thread at any time. Running through the streets naked shouting 'eureka' is also encouraged.
Joined 20-02-2006
Posted on Thursday, 03 May, 2007 - 08:00 am:   

The first thing that comes to mind is that we'd also be scrapping the precious time that I get to spend with my daughter each year - she lives in the US during term time, and coming for the Easter holiday is prohibitively expensive. We do get Christmas, but it flies by!

Of course, in the US the kids get three months off. As a single parent there, I used to find myself juggling family and various friends and babysitters, even jobs, to cover that amount of time. Six weeks seems more reasonable.
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Thursday, 03 May, 2007 - 08:07 pm:   

Not sure I can keep this up for very long, but here's another idea...

Now that almost everyone is using an Oyster card, how about using the system to incentivise the transport companies to provide a reliable, timely service, in the form of cash transferred back onto our cards whenever we are delayed?

For example, if I get on at Forest Hill (okay, we'd nead a reader, but they should be coming soon) and get off at Oxford Circus and the journey takes more than an hour (or whatever the journey should typically take) then I could be refunded something like 5p per minute over that time. If I'm delayed 30 mins, I'd get 1.50 back. If card readers were installed at bus stops, the system could even refund us if we have to wait excessively for a bus to arrive.
Joined 09-04-2005
Posted on Thursday, 03 May, 2007 - 10:16 pm:   

Or you could end up paying a premium rate for your bus / train being on time
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Friday, 04 May, 2007 - 07:47 am:   

He he...yes, you could look at it that way, but the point is the transport companies would make *more* money when their transport ran time, and thus would be more inclined to do so.

I've been told there are apparently already some sort of monitoring/fining schemes in operation, but they don't seem to work very well if you ask me.
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Friday, 04 May, 2007 - 08:44 am:   

How about a discount if you do not get a seat?

This might encourage rail companies to run longer trains capable of taking all their passengers rather than squeezing more in every year. The Forest Hill line has 'suppressed demand' which means that according to Transport for London 45% more people would like to take the train at peak times but cannot because the trains are too full.
Joined 09-01-2007
Posted on Friday, 04 May, 2007 - 09:16 am:   

PEARLS of wisdom on OYSTER cards whatever next - sorry but someone had to
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Saturday, 12 May, 2007 - 12:30 pm:   

These days politicians seem to want to solve every other problem by copying whatever's in fashion in America - never looking elsewhere.

So here's a quick wish list of a few things that London could learn from Tokyo.

1. Use vertical carousel car parks to create lots of parking spaces in a small area ( to stop roads being clogged up by parked cars where there could be space for pedestrians, bicycles, buses and taxis

2. Do roadwork at night and pack up by laying a temporary road surface each morning so daytime transportation is not disrupted (yes, they really do this)

3. Further solve transport problems by building roads and rail lines on stilts - much easier than underground (there are must be well over a hundred kilometres of these roads in Tokyo, e.g. 31/images/image_19-hct4_44.jpg /

4. Stop deluding ourselves that cruddy old buildings have so-called 'character' as if it's a good thing, and stop the current 'listed' building madness and knock down old junk about once every 50 years and build something nicer, more practical and more efficient

5. Make public transport run on time, every time, day in day out (the don't have any problem doing this in Tokyo with a much more complex network than London, so why did Uncle Ken go and hire that overpaid alcoholic American flop?)

What could London/Britain learn from somewhere you've lived?
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Sunday, 13 May, 2007 - 11:17 am:   

Not lived exactly but have always been impressed with Swiss trains, especially in snowy mountain areas and even in the lowland areas in winter when the rails/tracks are covered with snow. Granted the snow and ice is more regular there than here, but they also do have very hot summmers, and do seem to know what it takes to run a railway service. Is it really that difficult to build in contingencies here for bad weather? All is takes is a sprinkling of snow or leaves to wreck the service. Does this happen in the rest of Europe, such as central Europe which also has considerable variations in weather and temperature.

Japan and Holland and even Hong Kong are better comparators than the US due to high density cities and populations and pressures on land use. The essence seems to be integration of systems and joined up thinking.

On the school holiday point, I do think this will be counterproductive; teachers ( and kids) need the breaks that they have ( especially teachers!)- there are however countless opportunities for kids to get into playschemes and summer unis in the holidays that also go to keeping them off the streets. A six week summer break for a teacher actually translates into no more than 4 as the first is usually spent winding down and marking/tidying up the classroom, and the last is spent in school preparing the classroom and having planning meetings. Unlike most of us, having a few flexi days mid term is not an option for a teacher, nor is even having time off for things that can crop up such as Drs/hospital appointments which have often to be deferred to the next official break unless absolute emergencies.
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Sunday, 13 May, 2007 - 05:50 pm:   

Exactly my point. When Japanese and Swiss governments (amongst others) are so much better at it, why would you go and get a bunch of Americans (not exactly world leaders in public transport) in to help run ours? Okay, maybe a bit simplistic, but it's just one example. Our politicians do seem have super-sized blinkers on when looking for new ideas.

I know teachers need time to prepare for each term and they should get that. But I can't see what's so special about teachers that makes them need four weeks off, all at the same time. It's a job like any other. If the support was made available, why couldn't they just take holidays whenever they like and have substitutes stand in for a couple of weeks or so?

Aren't summer camps expensive, meaning rich kids attend them and poor kids don't (instead, especially those with single parents, they tend to hang around with nothing much to do)? As I said, four weeks a year adds up to a whole school year by the time you get to age 16, so that's a huge advantage/disadvantage.

We keep being told that we've got one of the strongest economies in the world, so surely there must a few extra quid to invest in improving education? This seems such an obvious way.
Joined 03-06-2005
Posted on Monday, 14 May, 2007 - 09:19 am:   

Ooperlooper - I've been studying your ideas on this thread for the last few weeks with increasing puzzlement. These aren't "eureka" moments as you bill them but a trawl through the usual Grumpy Old Man topics of why can't our trains run on time/why are they always digging up our roads variety.

There is not a single shred of educational evidence which suggests that long term times/school days lead to more educated or more "competitive" young people. Scandinavian countries do not teach children formal skills under they are 6 and have shorter school weeks than we do; on the other hand, the Japan you seem to admire so much has long school hours and "cramming" in the evening at weekends. Are we seriously led to believe that Japanese society (the highest child suicide rate in the world)with its stalled economy is "more successful" than the Scandinavian model? You admit above that we've got one of the strongest economies in the world. Strange isn't it - all without putting our children through a 14 hour day. Your Mr Gradgrind ideas are approximately 200 years out of date. What evidence do you have that longer hours per se will result in improvements?

Running our trains efficiently? It's very easy - invest more. All nations with good train services (Germany, France, Japan, Switzerland) invest heavily in trains and rail infrastructure. We don't. It means paying through taxes, something the British simply don't want to do.
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 14 May, 2007 - 09:57 am:   

OL, I don't think teachers get 4 weeks off because they are special- something to do with the National Curriculum delivery and SATs, I think, that defines the school timetable, also continuity of teacher in each class.
Joined 03-06-2005
Posted on Monday, 14 May, 2007 - 04:39 pm:   

Cambridge and Oxford university terms barely amount to 25 weeks annually. Don't you think that we ought to be telling those Dons that they are providing an inferior education and should be getting their charges into lecture theatres and classrooms 50 weeks per year, fourteen hours per day!!
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Tuesday, 15 May, 2007 - 11:00 pm:   

Okay, so point 5 about the trains is a rant, that's true, but the others aren't - they're radically different and potentially actionable policy choices. If only we'd stop obsessing about preserving the look of Mr Gadgrind's crumbling London, we could get on with making a much more practical, efficient, pleasant city.

I'm not advocating longer school days. I agree that it's counterproductive to overtax your brain in a single day. But surely six weeks is an unhelpfully long holiday, isn't it? Is there any evidence to support that such long holidays are educationally more valuable than a two week holiday?
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Wednesday, 16 May, 2007 - 01:08 am:   

You don't remember the halcyon days of summer as a child then!

Personally speaking I probably learned more about life in the summer hols than I did at school.In Northern Ireland we actually had around 8 weeks in the summer ( traditionally so that children could help with the local harvest and other rural stuff- even though we lived in a city.).It was also a time for assimilation, rest, play, exercise in the local park, playing with other local children in the park, and spending more time with my parents and other family members who lived further away. It was nice to have time to myself and to use my own initiative rather than be directed all the time into things to do. But then as for most of us we probably had a lot more freedom then and wandering the streets alone at 8 years old was less of an issue than it would be now. Kids wandering around London for 6/8 weeks wouldn;t have it so good- too expensive for a start which is when the trouble starts.
Joined 03-06-2005
Posted on Wednesday, 16 May, 2007 - 05:08 pm:   

Ooperlooper - You're flattering yourself.

Do you honestly think that if we knocked on the door of the DfES and told them we'd thought of this startling new idea - shorter school holidays - they'd be rendered speechless and tell you they'd never even considered the idea. Or if you approached the Department for Transport/GLA and ask them, why they don't repair roads at night, they'd say "Gosh, why didn't we think of that!"

These are well-rehearsed ideas amongst officials at all levels of government. For example, there's been a major debate about shorter and staggered summer holidays in education for the last 5/6 years. This was finally shelved last year by the DfES due to parental opposition. Where have you been during this time?
Joined 03-06-2005
Posted on Thursday, 17 May, 2007 - 11:07 am:   

Ooperlooper - just to give us an idea of how you would revitalise "crumbling London" could you list the local listed buildings you'd like to knock down in say SE23 or SE26? Could you then let us know what amount of public support there would be for constructing some of the urban motorways on stilts which you illustrate so graphically in your earlier email.
Joined 24-03-2004
Posted on Thursday, 17 May, 2007 - 11:27 am:   

Is Ooperlooper on acid?
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Thursday, 17 May, 2007 - 09:28 pm:   

Well I've found one person who seems to share my view: 1.stm

I remember being quite bored for much of the summer hols, and my mother was a teacher so had oodles of time off in which to try to keep us entertained. But they again, I was making the critical mistake of not having a harvest to gather. And then there was the agony of having to go back to school in Sept. I can still feel the pain, just thinking about it. Two weeks seems about right to me. Well if eliminating the summer hols is such a bad idea, how come our beloved government was looking into setting up American-style (groan) summer camps for all kids just a few years ago: Perhaps it is still in the pipeline. Was to be for only a week, mind, or so the article says.

Locally, I'd knock down that oh so architecturally significant 'Concrete House' (junction of Lordship Lane and Underhill Road) that is now a pidgeon colony. Apparently the owner wants to knock it down and build flats, but the council is obliged to insist that it is restored, as it's a listed building - one of the first concrete houses in London. Can't say I remember seeing that many architecture students or historians arriving in droves to marvel at this masterpiece. Haven't seen Griff Reece Jones coming round to stick it on the telly. On a wider scale, I'd love to see us knocking down pretty much anything older than 50 years and putting up new buidings in their place.

Urban motorways on stilts would sadly not be popular with many people, although the DLR did get built by some miracle and is a good proof of concept. Wouldn't it be nice to have a network of them all over the city?
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Thursday, 17 May, 2007 - 10:36 pm:   

Would it be nice? No not really. There is one in Glasgow which split and polarised a well established local community and received a lot of well deserved flak. Have a look at this example first to see if it works and you want it here. You can hear ( and see) the roar of traffic from most parts of Glasgow and there have been several accidents with lorries falling off and killing people underneath. The DLR is a little quieter, better thought out, and more discreet. Not really comparable.
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Thursday, 17 May, 2007 - 11:42 pm:   

Lorries falling off? They must have gotten some Americans experts in to build it. Lorries certainly don't fall off Japanese elevated roads with any regularity, and there must be thousands of kilometres worth across the country.

Did anyone notice a new David Baddiel comedy (or at least a new series) on Radio 4 that started yesterday called Heresy ( Supposedly the show is about "arguing that some of our most deeply held received opinions are plain wrong". Of course (as Baddiel admits) this is in fact a thinly veiled excuse to get Harry Enfield to do a gay Loadsamoney and other silliness, but it's a noble aim, all the same. That's exactly what I'm interested in exploring with this thread, and I'd like to hear other people's views on popular opinions that might be plain wrong. To illustrate what I mean by that, and by what I said earlier about how living abroad can make you see that conventional wisdom and your understanding of normality can in fact be quite subjective, here's a good example...

Most Brits accept without question that hunting whales is wrong.

However, consider the following:

1. One whale can provide as much meat as perhaps ten thousand chickens. If chickens and whales have an equal right to life, then surely eating whale is ten thousand times less cruel than eating chicken.

2. Unlike farmed animals, a hunted whale lives very nearly 100% of its life freely roaming the oceans living a full and natural life.

3. Death by harpoon (which these days frequently, though not always, results in a death within minutes) is probably in fact less traumatic than a whale's natural death by drowning, beaching or being eaten alive by sharks.

4. Research on whale populations differs markedly, but even conservative estimates put the global population of Minke whales in the hundreds of thousands. Surely any sensible country would allow hunting of such non-endangered species in controlled numbers. (This is what the pro-whaling nations want to do - farm whales sustainably, not hunt endangered species).

Okay, you might not be convinced, but my point is that you've probably never even though of it like that, have you? Wasn't it fun to do so?
Joined 12-02-2007
Posted on Friday, 18 May, 2007 - 10:09 am:   

I'm afraid I feel obliged to defend the "architecturally significant concrete house"... Whenever I bring new friends/family into the area they always notice and comment on this building and mostly in the sense that it is a shame to see such an interesting building left to decay... whilst its a shame this space has been left to decay I'd much rather see it restored than another uniform, uninspiring set of new builds... new builds wouldn't be so bad if they were more innovative but knocking down period properties to build new builds designed to imitate period properties (as many developers seem to do) is just crazy in my view... at least make them modern and reflect the fact that we are no longer living in the Georgian/Victorian era.

And I'm afraid you lost me with the whale argument... the problem with our oceans is that there is so much uncertainty about numbers and breeding rates so harpooning a few hundred whales a year might have a significant impact on populations... and this is emphasised by the fact that the pro-whaling nations (mostly Japan) offers aid to poor countries (mostly in the caribbean) in return for their vote to reintroduce commercial whaling... hardly decisions based on conservation issues. so no, you are right, this broadbeanster isn't convinced at all.
Joined 09-01-2007
Posted on Friday, 18 May, 2007 - 02:38 pm:   


I can see where your coming from. Take the whole British attitude to meat/pets/vegetarianism. In south east asia i've seen truckloads of dogs in cages going to market in China. In Peru guinea pigs run freely among most the peasent homes and are treated as pets until their ready for the pot. Go to some places in the world and say you don't eat meat (which I do) and they give you look like you've grown another head. Its just the way it is in other places.

Where I do take issue is with anything over 50 years old to be knocked down, since I qaulify!
Joined 03-06-2005
Posted on Friday, 18 May, 2007 - 02:50 pm:   

Ooperlooper - You have given a completely one-sided (some would say totally distorted) account of the empty house on the junction of Lordship Lane/Underhill Road. For a more balanced view see: -090605.doc

However, rather than deal with one house, let's take on board your views on old buildings in general. You aren't arguing that a few BAD old buildings should be knocked down, you want to knock down ALL old buildings that are more than 50 years old. You are entitled to your opinion, but let's deal with the real world. Just like your views on roads, this would simply never achieve any degree of support either with the public or with any political party (is the Monster Raving Loony Party still in existence?).

"Think the unthinkable" all you like but urban motorways on stilts, whaling and knocking down all old buildings are activities best left to the Japanese who you clearly admire so much.
Joined 21-04-2005
Posted on Friday, 18 May, 2007 - 03:16 pm:   

'Why we should scrap summer holidays and other eureka moments.'

What exactly is the point of this thread?
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Friday, 18 May, 2007 - 03:46 pm:   

The problem with this house is that it is too expensive to do anything with it other than knock it down and rebuild as a flatted development. It will undoubtedly have a negative valuation but the land value will still be good subject to planning. I also looked at its potential some years ago when working for a housebuilder and quickly found out why nothing was happening. If its really of such historic architectural interest, an organisation such as English Heritage or the National Trust should really be taking it on and restoring it to its former glory, or someone makes a pitch to the ' Restoration' programme. I appreciate the need to look at the empty homes statistics but I do feel some sympathy for owners who may be in this position and don't think bullying them into CPO is the answer.
Perhaps we ought to be setting up a separate thread on historic/vacant buildings on
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Friday, 18 May, 2007 - 11:55 pm:   

I spoke too soon. Article in today's London Lite...

Japanese cut 20 weeks off work on Tube

The time taken to repair Tube escalators has been cut from 26 weeks to six. Maintenance firm Tube Lines has brought in Japanese working practices to slash the amount of time that worn-out escalators are disabled.

Tube Lines, which is reponsible for maintenance of the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines, had been using decade-old practices inherited from the public sector.

One new practice is to ensure that parts are ordered for delivery at the right time and in the right order, rather than in bulk.

Escalator steps are now also brought into stations by specialist lifting workers so technicians no longer have to leave the job they are working on.

Metronet, which is responsible for the other lines, said it had also cut the time for regular train overhauls from 72 to 48 hours by bringing in managers from Japanesse car firms.

This has helped reduce overcrowding on the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines as well as part of the District line. Metronet has employed 30 former Toyota and Nissan managers as staff or consultants and now aims to reduce the overhauls to 14 hours. Chief executive Andrew Lezala said it had been vital to look for new methods to cope with the growing number of passengers. "What kept things ticking over in the past may not do so in the future," he added.

Last summer Metronet tried to step up track replacement work with more efficient methods but failed to prepare the track for hot weather, resulting in speed restrictions.


Guess I own TfL an apology.

Totally agree with you Broadbeanster that new builds should be allowed to be themselves, and I hear what you're saying about Japan allegedly buying support with aid, but I think you should also apply the same skepticism to organisations such as Greenpeace. What better way for their marketing dept to raise money than by hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of free publicity every time they float a little rubber dingy out alongside a giant whaling ship. Where would they be without this iconic moneyspinner?

My point is not simply to say how great Japanese culture is. There are plenty of things I hate about the place. My point is it's fun to realise how things you take for granted don't necessarily have to be so. Going abroad (to any country) is one way to see this, but you really just need a bit of imagination. I'd just like to hear other people's ideas.

I think you've got an interesting point Johnc. British attitudes to animals are really quite odd. Too many Lassie and Flipper re-runs, perhaps?
Joined 28-06-2006
Posted on Tuesday, 22 May, 2007 - 10:27 pm:   

It's often argued that if the TV licence fee were abolished, the overall quality of TV broadcasting would fall.

If that's the case, then by the same logic surely our national newspapers must be sub-standard, and the overall quality could be raised if the BBC started a paper.

So why don't they?