26 May 2008

Are the School Holidays too Long?

Everyone in the UK is used to us having an academic year that starts in September with three terms (September-December, January-March/April and April-July) of 10-14 weeks with a half-termly holiday week in the middle - October, February and May, two weeks holiday at Christmas and Easter and a six week summer break, but The Institute for Public Policy Research has said studies suggested pupils' reading and maths abilities regressed because the summer break was too long. Instead, the think-tank said the school year could have five eight-week terms, with a month off in the summer and two weeks between the rest of the terms. You can see more details here.

I'm not sure where I stand on this - I can see the point that a six week break is a long time if children are left to 'stagnate' but this is assuming that children only learn at school and we know from experience with pre-school children and those who are home educated that learning can occur anywhere at anytime.

There are always books, educational toys and games available to support children's learning in fun ways during holiday times and although the article suggests that children from disadvantaged backgrounds do not get the same opportunities during the school holidays I think that better advertising and targetting of the 'free' activities / resources that are available to everyone through libraries (both the traditional type offering books, DVDs and computer programmes plus toy libraries where you can borrow toys, games and other play equipment), plus local councils often run subsidised playschemes and activities during the summer holidays.

Another practical reason for needing a six-week summer break is family holidays, if the Government are going to continue their crack down on parents taking children out of school for family holidays reducing the 'window' in which families can take a holiday will mean that the 'peak' holiday price will increase, employers will have to juggle more employees wanting exactly the same two weeks off to go away and children will spend less time at home learning about local atractions and taking part in local activities.

Lastly I'd be concerned that having a ten week block without a holiday break would be exhausting for younger children. They are often becoming ill and tired towards the half-term / end of term especially when it is an eight week half term so parents may end up spending the whole of the 'holiday' weeks looking after an exhausted / ill child - not much fun for anyone.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Some interesting points there that I'd not thought of!

However, having a shorter summer break could also potentially help working parents. Trying to find childcare for such a long stretch can be a real struggle and it would far easier to enrol the children in holiday clubs, going to grandparents etc if each holiday was shorter.

Melitsa said...

This is something I'll be experiencing for the first time this year. The big guy starts K in a year round school environment. Something like 7-8 wks on 3 wks off. It'll be interesting to see how he and we do.