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Staggering School Holidays


The Summer Holidays has arrived and it is a great time to spend with our children, but are the holidays too long and would it be better if School Holidays were staggered? Rather than one long summer holiday, should it be shortened and then have longer holidays in the Autumn and Spring?

Why we have summer holidays

The long summer holiday was invented back in Victorian times.  Back then, the children were needed during the summer to help with the parent’s work – most of them worked on the land in farming and keeping animals.  During the summer, at the height of the work period, the children would be on holiday from their schooling and around to work on the farm, providing much needed free additional labour.

In modern times, this is rarely the case as only a tiny percentage of the country work in farming and an even smaller amount rely on their kids as farm labourers.  Yet we still have a holiday length that came to us from the 19th century way of life.

Gone also are the days where parents went to work and left their kids to get on with it.  Understanding of the things that can go wrong and the dangers in the world mean we simply can’t image leaving a ten year old to their own devices all day.

So the question is simple – why do we still have the six weeks’ holidays and why can’t we stagger those weeks across the year?

Do kids benefit from the long break?

One idea touted about to convince us that the summer holiday is a good thing is that kids benefit from the long break.  Their young minds can rest and recuperate before facing the challenges of the new school year, fresh and rested.

But this only works if the kids are physically and mentally exhausted from their school year in the first place, which is rare.  Added to that is the boredom factor.  Sure the kids might enjoy a rest for a few days, maybe a week for teenagers, then the boredom sets in.  They are constantly hunting for something to do, something to entertain themselves or are requiring parents to provide this.

In fact, when you consider that England has the lowest rate of literacy and second lowest for numeracy in the developed world, perhaps our kids need more schooling not less.  Perhaps that long rest is harming their abilities rather than enhancing them – after all, a skill unused often fades from the mind.

Parents view

Many parents view the six weeks’ holiday with a mixture of anticipation and dread.  They love to spend time with their kids, go on holiday or take day trips.  But after a while, they have to return to work unless they are really lucky.  Or they have to stagger their holidays between parents so they see little of their other half in order to have someone around at all times for the kids.

One poll, conducted by ITV, showed that over 73% of parents would prefer that schools staggered their holidays as this would make them more affordable.  Not only would there be less time to find things for the kids to do, it would also help alleviate another major irritation for parents – the cost of vacations during the school holidays.

If you have ever tried to book a holiday in the last week of June rather than the last week of July, you will know the difference in cost we are talking about.  It can range from hundreds to even thousands of pounds, all because everyone knows more people want to go on holiday when the kids are off school.  This can often mean holidays are out of price range for families and puts an end to the annual vacation.

Changing ideas

There are already ideas and actions being taken around the country in an attempt to stagger holidays and to break up the six (or seven as it is this year in some parts) weeks holiday.  One example is a motion passed by Cardiff Council that allows schools to consider staggering the summer holiday.  It is going to be investigated by the Children and Young People committee with results to follow.

Schools in the Brighton and Hove City Council area will be having one less week at summer and one more week during the autumn break for the next school year, the council have announced.  In a move aimed at combatting the cost of summer holiday vacations, the schools will have more time off in autumn to allow parents to grab off-peak holidays without needing to remove kids from class.

Barnsley Council have been the first to announce a smaller summer holiday for the next year, reducing it to five weeks.  They too have announced that the extra week will be added to the autumn holiday.  There has been some resistance from teachers who say the longer break is needed for them to ‘recharge their batteries’ and it may affect the quality of teachers willing to work in the council area.

Staggering problems

The biggest concern for parents about staggering school holidays is when they face kids at different schools being on holiday at different times.  An example comes from the West Sussex and Surrey areas where kids can be in junior school in one area and in senior school in another.  As councils look to stagger and change duration of holidays, parents face their kids being off school at different times.  This makes scheduling holidays more difficult, especially when both parents work and need to organise their vacation time.

Generally, parents are in favour of the reduction of the summer holidays by a week or even two.  While there are clearly issues for those who have kids in different school districts, the plan to reduce the summer holidays is one that many local councils are considering and even putting into place for the next year.


Jason is the Founder of Term Dates. As a parent, it soon became apparent that finding the Term Dates and School Holidays for a particular school was not as easy as it should be. After six months collating all the necessary data, Term Dates was born.