So often problems in society suddenly making the headlines are followed by someone proclaiming the solution is something based in schools. There's a lot to be said for that, I'm a huge advocate of early intervention and focusing efforts on child development is absolutely the right approach to tackling inequalities of opportunity but there is a problem - we are asking more and more of our teachers and schools without providing the time, space and resources to do it all.
Watching ITV's recent two part documentary 'School Swap' where a state school and a private school swapped a set of pupils and their head teachers for a week was interesting for a number of reasons but for me the key thing to take away was that the sheer variety of options for, what we in the state sector would call, 'extra-curricular' activities.
Much of the divide between state and private is purely down to financial resources the state could never match for all schools but so many extra-curricular activities already exist in and outside of schools that I'm certain capacity is there with a little more organisation to be able to devise a set of 'optional classes' for every pupil - basically extending the concept of picking your subjects at GCSE by making extra-curricular activities compulsory but with such a range of choices it never really feels like it.
Extending the school day would also allow for longer breaks for pupils to make up for the extended day and it allows for more sports to be crammed into the week so pupils are more active to help tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity.
The growth of extra-curricular activities has seen many schools heading in this direction already but to get a really serious, national cultural shift it would take a Government mandated change to 5pm finishes for all schools to make it truly work in a coordinated fashion which might see schools collaborating to offer certain activities that other schools don't have the facilities for.
If nothing else it's worth trying on a city region (say Greater Manchester) scale to test its impact before rolling out nationally if it delivers the expected impact of more rounded young people.