The education minister, Christine Antorini (Socialdemokraterne), has given in to the opposition and cut the 'activity time' aspect of the government's proposed school reform. The activity time, which was to consist of five to nine extra hours a week that would have combined education, movement and play, was presented last autumn as a key part of the government’s school reform plan.
An internal ministerial note obtained by Berlingske newspaper on Tuesday revealed that after the pressure from opposition parties, Antorini plans to drop the proposal. However, in the note, Antorini still stressed that “motion and movement” would take place at the nation’s public schools.
Antorini is assumed to have dropped the 'activity time' proposal in order to break the deadlock in negotiations on the entire school reform package.
The plan to add activity time in public schools had met stiff resistance from opposition parties Venstre (V), Konservative (K) and Dansk Folkeparti (DF). Opposition politicians dismissed the government's plans as "hula hoop time" and a "social experiment".
K's leader, Lars Barfoed, expressed his satisfaction at the death of activity time.
“I can confirm that the development in the negotiations is a positive one in our view," Barfoed told Berlingske.
Niels Egelund, a professor of education at Aarhus University, told Berlingske that the opposition to ‘activity time’ was disappointing.
“I will never understand why the opposition [parties] are so terrified over ‘activity time’,” Egelund said. “Danish public schools are challenged because the weaker students don’t have enough time in school, while the strongest students aren’t being challenged enough. This would improve both.”
Upon being told that the government now plans to drop the key aspect of its reform proposal, Agnete Vienberg Hansen, the chairperson of the students’ association Danske Skolelever, told Berlingske she was “mad”.
“If they remove the ‘activity time’ from the reform, all we will get is a longer school day with good intentions but nothing concrete,” said Hansen, whose association represents some 700,000 students. “There is no benefit in having more hours in Danish and maths if we just sit on our asses and listen to our teachers without learning anything.”
Hansen said that what had made school reform positive was the idea of a different, not just longer, school day.
“Education is about using all of the senses. It is bullshit to remove the activity lessons from the reform,” Hansen said.
Antorini did not wish to comment.