Traditional 9am to 3pm school hours are a “relic of a sexist, bygone era”, which assumes women do not work, a new Liberal MP has told parliament, calling for extended school days to reflect modern working hours.
Ryde MP Jordan Lane used his maiden speech on Thursday to call for the school day to extend to 6pm to “empower parents, especially mothers” to “not be forced to choose between their own career progression or raising children”.
Lane, who was elected by a mere 54 votes at the March election, told parliament the public education system was “structured in an era where women didn’t work, and households were comfortably sustained on a single income”.
“The great travesty of public policy will be if the education system of the 2050s looks as it did when it was established in the 1950s,” he said.
“It is a relic of a sexist, bygone era where society assumed women stayed at home and were responsible for the school pickup.”
Former premier Dominic Perrottet floated a shift in school hours last year and ordered a trial of extended times at 14 schools.
Lane has called for extended hours across all NSW public schools “to be more accommodating of modern employment”.
“Local schools should become hubs for after-school activity, where the government guarantees that a child can remain on school campuses until 6pm,” he said.
Rather than extending teaching hours, he said, community organisations should be contracted to introduce extracurricular classes in things such as coding, culture and language, art and sport.
Extending the opening hours of schools would result in “an additional year of student education”, he said and offer “greater flexibility for parents, a productivity and employment boost to the state [and] financial relief from the high cost of childcare”.
Some public schools in NSW already have changed school hours, including Merrylands East Public, which operates from 8am to 1.15pm, with playground supervision from 7.30am. The 14-school trial ordered by the previous government will conclude at the end of June.
In a statement, the NSW Education Department said an “evaluation will be conducted to ensure the learnings can be fed back into the wider system”.
The previous government had planned to expand the pilot dramatically if re-elected, despite opposition from the NSW Teachers Federation and some education bureaucrats.
Announcing the initial trial in 2022, Perrottet had called for “bold and brave” ideas about changing school hours. Some of the hesitation to changing the hours relates to issues such as bus timetabling and school cleaning hours.
Lane’s speech, which was attended by moderate Liberal Party powerbrokers Michael Photios and the former North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman, also included a call for a tax rise on foreign investors who own empty properties.
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