'School hours are not “sexist” but some attitudes sure are.’

According to 28-year-old Jordan Lane, who became the MP for Ryde in NSW in March, school hours should be extended to 6pm.

"It (the education system) is a relic of a sexist, bygone era where society assumed women stayed at home and were responsible for the school pick-up,'' Lane said in his inaugural address to NSW parliament yesterday.

"The great travesty of public policy would be if the education system of the 2050s looks as it did when it was established in the 1950s."

Lane's speech has gone viral and the media coverage and public commentary have been mixed, but I want to thank him for putting the issue back on the table because it is a conversation we need to keep having. 

While I don't think the current school timetable is "sexist", I believe it needs changing, as do many attitudes about this being a problem for 'working mums'.

School hours are an issue for working parents – not just mums. If we don't want to change the hours for the sake of our kids, then dads and employers need to become part of the chat.

This is a whole community issue that we need to keep discussing.

Watch: The things parents never say on school holidays. Post continues below.

Video: Mamamia.

As I have learned since 2016 when my eldest son started school, the hours between 3pm and 6pm require a lot of juggling. A bit of shared care between myself and my partner, occasional help from family or friends, and official paid after-school care.

While I managed a 9-5 office job during my firstborn's daycare years, I decided it would be easier to stick to freelancing once he began school.

Yes, there were after-school care options where I put his name down, but the wait list was long and I was not a priority. As my husband had a secure, full-time job, it felt like the best and most appropriate choice for my family. 

But looking back now, was it really a choice?

I felt guilty about wanting to work more, because I already had my freelance work during school hours, and wasn’t that enough? But I also felt frustrated at having to dial down my career aspirations and superannuation earning potential in order to allow our family to function inside the regulation school day.

And the standard regulation school day does not easily allow for parents to work if this is what you need – or choose – to do.

According to an article by The Conversation, the reasoning for our contemporary school hours and school holiday structure is contentious but has existed in its current form for nearly a century.  


The current system was set up in an era when most mums did not work outside the home and could walk to the local school to drop off and then pick up the kids while dad was out at work. 

As flexible working conditions and daycare options have developed to suit a multitude of modern family structures and circumstances, school hours and the length of school holidays remain mostly the same as they did in the 1930s.

Yes, before-and-after-school care and vacation clubs are available in most towns and cities in 2022, but for many parents, the reality is that places are limited – and costly.

Listen to This Glorious Mess, Mamamia's twice-weekly look at parenting as it really is - confusing, exhausting, inspiring, funny, and full of surprises. Post continues below.

Then there are the never-ending feelings of guilt and shame when the wheels fall off, which they invariably do when trying to manage so many competing priorities.

I’ve been there and I know exactly how it feels.

There’s the guilt of being late to the 3 pm pick-up and seeing your poor child waiting alone in the playground. There is also the guilt of having to leave work early to beat the school traffic. 

These are very common feelings for working parents, but when we carefully consider that what we are being asked to do is impossible, should they be?


School and corporate working hours are simply incompatible – there is at least a two-hour gap that needs to be filled and there’s no real official acknowledgement that this even exists. 

Many parents tell themselves they can 'go back to work when the kids start school' but this might depend on what your partner does and how much childcare they can take on as well as the hours you work, the flexibility of your employer, and other available care options.

The combination of technology and working from home during the pandemic has perhaps allowed parents the ability to negotiate flexible hours that better suit school hours. Many good employers have chosen to adopt policies and make lives easier for working parents. 

But I’m not sure that all the pressure should be on parents, families and workplaces to adapt to a century-old school structure when little consideration seems to have been given to why we still operate on a six-hour school day, and a 12 to 16 week school holiday calendar.

I certainly don’t have the answers. 

I am not suggesting that hardworking teachers need to work more, or that schools are at fault, but perhaps like MP Jordan Lane suggests, more on-site after-school care options are required, or a full re-think of how the school system and corporate world could co-exist more fluently for the benefit of modern working families.


According to the NSW Government, since June 2019, more than 124 new Before and After School services (BASC) have opened, which is good news. 

In our household, my eldest son is at high school and my youngest son is in Year One. 

I am lucky to have a partner who has a flexible job where he can end his working day at 3pm in time for the school pick-up on the days I work. 

Most families I know are not in this situation, and if you are currently calling around for that prized place at a local after-school care facility, or are negotiating with grandparents and friends for help with care, know this: 

You are not crazy and you should not feel any guilt.

You are doing your best in the current system and after all the impossible tasks we’ve had to navigate these last three years as working parents, it shouldn’t be science fiction to imagine that big questions should keep being asked and big changes could be made.

Do you think that school hours need to change? Or do you think parents should be able to make it work. Tell us what you think in the comments below. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

This story was originally published in January 2022 and has since been updated with new information. 

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