The six weeks holidays is an idea that dates back many generations. The root of it was that the children needed the time off school while their parents were harvesting their crops and they could help out around the land. But today, a tiny percent of kids would be involved in the family business in this way. So has this holiday lost its appeal and should schools shorten the summer holidays?
The teacher’s view
One teaching, writing anonymously in The Guardian, voiced their opinion in favour of the shortening of school holiday because it would be a benefit to their students. They acknowledge that many of their colleagues would hate the idea and the trade unions may be against the concept but all of this pale against the benefits for the kids.
One of the main reasons that this teacher is against the length of the summer break is that kids in their school don’t actually like it. School brings structure and routine to their lives and for some, it offers a safe and secure place to be with food on offer. This is of course the extreme of the viewpoint as many kids have a perfectly good structure when they are at home, but is a point to consider.
Kids often get bored during the holidays due to the length of time they are at home. This is when they start looking for other things to occupy themselves and end up getting into trouble. If they were back at school earlier, this urge to do something naughty would be alleviated because they would be engaged in their studies once more.
Then there is the benefit for the teachers and their workload. While it may seem they would have more to do with a shorter holiday, the reality would be that they spend a lot of time and effort dealing with the lost time of the summer holidays. Students fall behind during the holidays and a lot of work is needed when they return to get them back up to speed – by reducing the period of time they are holiday for, this effect would be reduced.
The cost of holidays view
One of the biggest complaints most parents have today is about the cost of going on holiday during the summer school break. Combine this with the new regulations that fine parents for taking kids out of school for a holiday and this means many families cannot afford their annual break, either abroad or even in this country.
Parents face an on-the-spot penalty of £60 per child issued by the school, which doubles if it is unpaid for more than three weeks. Two or more unpaid fines can lead to parents being referred to the education welfare service for their local authority who then have the power to take them to court. Here fines up to £2,500 can be issued and parents can even be jailed for up to three months.
In 2014, 16,430 people were prosecuted for taking their kids out of class during term, an increase of 25% on the previous years. And according to Ministry of Justice figures, three quarters of these were found guilty. In addition, over 9,000 fines were issued by the courts at an average bill of £172, an increase of nearly a third on the previous year while 18 jail sentences were handed out, compared with seven in 2013.
According to schools, good attendance is crucial to a child’s education and this is why they are taking such a hard line against absences without a valid reason. Yet the lack of flexibility in these rules is being criticised by a number of sources.
One parent pointed out that the week’s holiday they took their child on was far more educational than the corresponding week’s education would have been. Another was fined for taking the kids out of school because the father could not get holidays at any other time of the year.
So perhaps by shortening the holiday period and opening up longer holidays at other times of the year, the influx of holidaymakers in the summer and the corresponding price hikes can be offset somewhat?
One survey in the South showed that 49% of mums said they wanted the Government to review the length of the summer holidays and one of the top reasons for this is the cost of children, thought to run to £6.5 billion. The poll, by Asda, showed that parents were forced to rely on grandparents to pick up the slack after the 24 hour a week free childcare provided by the government because they could not afford other childcare options.
The other costs associated with the length of the holiday are significant too. The poll found that mums expected to pay out nearly £2000 to keep kids occupied during the holidays, nearly £1000 on eating out and over £800 on days out and activities.
Around 23% of mums said that if the holidays couldn’t be shortened, then the government should look to increase the amount of free childcare that parents receive to cover the length of time.
The Christmas view
There is a growing movement among parents that the time should be taken off the summer holidays and added to other holidays, with an extended Christmas break being a popular suggestion. The length of time of the holiday in the summer often leaves parents with a sense of dread after the first few weeks. Yet at Christmas, it seems that no sooner are the presents opened on Christmas morning than the kids are back in class. Adding an extra week to the Christmas holidays and another to the Easter holidays is something that many parents are voicing favour for.
Two schools in Lincolnshire have already announced they are making the changes that parents are calling for, by reducing the summer holidays to four weeks and adding the other weeks onto other main holidays. It will be interesting to see the kids’ results in these schools and how the new holidays have an impact in coming years.
Main Image by Phil Roeder https://www.flickr.com/photos/tabor-roeder/