Over the last week or so there has been a lot of handwringing over Ruth Kelly's proposal to open schools from 8am to 6pm, thus allowing them to offer a raft of "extra curricular activities" for the children, on the grounds that these would offer huge benefits to the children who received them.
Let's be clear, shall we, just who the Government is actually trying to help here.
Not the disadvantaged children about whom we hear so much these days, but the parents.
After all, any society or government which offers generous help with childcare so that parents can dump babies and toddlers in nurseries from 7.30am in the morning till 6pm at night, every working day, leaving small children with no access to their mothers for up to ten hours a day, can't care much about building a bond between parents and their children.
"We'll provide breakfast, lunch, tea, play - who needs parents?" is the message.
In any case, the idea that sports, music, art etc, cannot be fitted into a normal school day is nothing more than a red herring.
In my day we were at school from 9am till 4pm and managed to have an afternoon of games a week, lessons in art, music, domestic science, along with nine academic O-level subjects and a plethora of non-school activities followed during the lunch break.
Perhaps we should take note of a recent report which said that up to 70 per cent of lesson time in some primary schools was wasted by children wandering about the classroom, not settling to any sustained work or receiving guidance or instruction from the teacher.
Perhaps more purposeful input in lesson time might free up time for other things?
As for the wishy-washy suggestion that all these new activities, taking place after school, should be optional, this will be doomed to failure.
What middle-class politicians fail to realise in their zeal to improve the lot of disadvantaged children is that choice is an alien concept to the poor, disadvantaged child (I know, I was one of them). They know nothing, have experienced nothing and have never had choices in their lives and therefore cannot choose which activities to follow.
These children need activities to be compulsory: they need to be forced if necessary into activities that will broaden their horizons and give them a window on a different world from the one they inhabit.
Instead of keeping children until 6pm why can't we do what used to be done before the teachers' strike wiped out goodwill and extra-curricular activities?
Let's go back to having school start at 9am and continue until 12pm.
Then, during a lunch period of one and a half hours, half an hour could be devoted to eating lunch which leaves time for two half-hour periods for a whole raft of activities to be followed: singing, model railways, local history.
Children should be obliged to follow three activities a term (not including the ubiquitous pop-music which fills every school, so it seems).
Over the years, nine different activities a year should offer the poorest child so many new experiences that he must find some interests that he can carry into his life after school.
If school ends at 3.30pm for the juniors and 4pm for the seniors that would leave time for sports practice before the day ends at 4pm or 4.30pm.
Of course, I am well aware that such a programme needs a huge amount of organisation and a huge number of enthusiastic people to teach the activities, and I'm far from sure that the Labour Government's idea of getting private firms to run them is a good one.
I suspect we'd get the rise of cowboy firms and the idea of "I've got a mate who could give you a couple of hours a week..."