Opinion: Wales has the right idea – perhaps it’s time to end the six week school summer holiday?
By the time one of my children returns to school in September he’ll have been away from the classroom for almost seven weeks.
A mixture of an early finish, development days – and a day at the start of term open only to new starters – means he’ll have racked up an enviable number of holiday days by the time he claps eyes on a uniform again, writes columnist Lauren Abbott.
It also means, like many other working parents, we’ve been left scratching our heads at how best to keep him (and our other child) busy.
And I’m fast coming round to the idea that the six (or seven?) week holiday is just too long.
Earlier this month, ministers in Wales confirmed a formal public consultation will be held this academic year to test support for changing holiday and term dates – in particular shortening the summer stretch.
The average holiday allowance for employees is 25 days for the year. The length of the average school break in summer alone? 42.
And that’s not including the two weeks at Christmas, Easter, a week in February, May and October together with five statutory development days.
When ministers considered how to help children catch up after the pandemic, and whether the summer holiday could be shortened, teachers argued children (and staff) needed time to recharge.
I have no doubt the above to be true – and school is by no means a babysitting service – but as someone who has needed to hustle her children out the door not long after 9am the past few days to full day holiday camps – there’s not much of a pyjama party going on over here just yet.
The six-week break, argue some in Wales, was designed for a time when school was optional and children had to help with the harvest.
Even 20 or 30 years ago the vast majority of families probably still had one parent at home which enabled the long summer to be more of a mixture of park trips and play dates?
This isn’t a case now of people not wanting to spend time with their children – before someone is tempted to say it - but no working parent can just announce they need six weeks off because their children are home.
Equally I’m not convinced – particularly in the smaller towns – that we’ve caught up with the likes of America or Canada where families can choose from a vast array of well-organised state-supported summer camps and residentials that acknowledge children with so much time off (and parents at work) need something worthwhile to do.
And while I can’t say what impact the summer holiday has on academic ability or attitudes to attendance – albeit for children stuggling to show post-Covid I can imagine a six week break only serves to pull them further from school – would it be so bad to knock a fortnight off the summer spell?
Wales may be about to draw battle lines with unions, with a suggestion the summer holiday become four weeks instead of six, and the possible demise of the long holiday may do nothing but provide politicians and teachers with another source of conflict.
But if the same was asked in England? I’d be all for it.