Speaking at a conference yesterday, he criticised the status quo as ‘a significant handicap in the global race’ compared with systems in countries like Singapore and China.
‘We can’t afford to have a system that was essentially set in the 19th century,’ he said.
In response the PR team for the National Union of Teachers issued media with a statement from general secretary Christine Blower opposing the plans.
‘Teachers and pupils already spend longer hours in the classroom than in most countries and have some of the shortest summer holidays… Yet again we see the Education Secretary making policy up on the hoof with no real evidence for either the necessity for change or the benefit it brings.’
The Times, Telegraph, Daily Mirror and Guardian all placed the story on their front page, and the BBC’s story provoked a lengthy discussion on Mumsnet including 363 messages between 5pm yesterday and 9am today.
Hanover founder Charles Lewington highlighted the right-wing press’ positive response to the comments.
Lewington, whose company works for the higher education institution New College of the Humanities and for-profit education services provider Gems Education Solutions, said: ‘Michael Gove’s strong signal that he would welcome a longer school day and shorter summer holidays has got a predictable thumbs-up from the Daily Mail.’
The Mail’s coverage did not include a critical point of view and also quoted ‘a Whitehall source’ as saying: ‘We can either start working as hard as the Chinese, or we’ll all soon be working for the Chinese.’
In contrast the Mirror headlined the story as ‘The Holiday Snatcher’, adding an NUT claim that the plans were part of a ‘secret agenda’ to privatise state education.
Lewington added: ‘[Gove’s call] is a bold move given the number of fronts on which he is currently fighting the teaching unions but all the better for that as far as the right-wing press is concerned.’
The Department for Education press office was unable for comment on the way it presented the plans at the time of publication.