What's the educational argument for so many holidays?

(1000 Posts)
TinTinsSexySister Tue 19-Feb-13 14:59:53

Just that really.

Are there any educational benefits to frequent school holidays or are they just an historical hangover? Educationally speaking, would we be worse or better off adopting the US system?

goinnowhere Tue 19-Feb-13 15:20:19

I don't know. But I feel quite strongly that my dc need them.

BrianButterfield Tue 19-Feb-13 15:28:31

In the US they have two months off during summer...pretty sure it works out about the same school year as we have.

mimbleandlittlemy Tue 19-Feb-13 15:46:38

Well the long summer holiday is an historical throwback to kids going to work in the fields of course, so logically it's not needed now, but every time anyone suggests going on to a more balanced school year it bites the dust.

The US has pretty much the same amount of time as the UK but in the US they finish at the end of May/beginning of June and don't go back until after the Labor Day holiday at the very beginning of September shock, with Spring Break around Easter, a week or so off at Christmas and time off around Thanksgiving so it's not far off ours.

stargirl1701 Tue 19-Feb-13 15:51:41

It depends what parents choose to do with their children in the holidays - they could be educational or not.

The school year is historical. It is based on the farming calendar. Where I live in Scotland, there is a 2 week break in October to allow school children to harvest potatoes. Which, of course, they no longer do.

There is an urgent case for reviewing the school year IMO. Some terms require staff and pupils to work till they drop (current one Jan to Apr 13 weeks with 2 days holiday) whereas other terms we barely get going (first one Aug to Oct 7 weeks).

ByTheWay1 Tue 19-Feb-13 15:55:31

I like the holidays the way they are - gives everyone a chance to get away at various times of the year, to catch up with family, to chill out at home and to do things outside school that require the focus that a holiday period or 2 can allow.

Incogneetow Tue 19-Feb-13 16:05:47

What do the US do in terms of school holidays? Do they not have breaks for mid-terms, Easter and Christmas?

Tansie Tue 19-Feb-13 16:10:28

Oh, I always get all vexed about school holidays!

It isn't so much the cumulative time (though I confess I do resent INSET days!), it's more the weird spread. This is becoming more of a thing now that 'summer' seems to be getting earlier and earlier. I mean, last year, here in Hants, it was March, the previous year it was in April. Come August it's pretty much wall to wall rain these days, isn't it? So I'd rather the DC had 2 weeks off in June, 4 in 'August' and 2 in mid October to at least increase the slight chance we might get some reasonable weather. I also think 2 weeks is the ideal holiday time. A week away and you're only just hitting your holiday stride when it's time to pack up; weeks on end and, rather like the effect if Christmas came every day, the appreciation of that 'down time' is lost in familiarity. My DSs are actually quite glad to get back into school routine come September, actually!

I also don't really think DC need 6 weeks off in one hit. I know that yes, they're only DC once, we shouldn't wish their childhoods away and so forth but 6 or even 9 weeks doesn't really give an older DC any concept of the reality of what life's like when you get 4 weeks all up as an adult! It has always been my 'observation' that these looong summer hols are most favoured by non-working mums who suddenly don't have to do anything against the clock each morning as opposed to getting DC off to school. You will also find -ahem- that many staunch supporters tend to cite southern Europe or Ireland as to how 'it didn't do me/my DC any harm' - all PIIGS countries, one notes!

I can only speak for myself, here, when I say that for my DSs, they (and their teachers agreed with me!) tended to find it was October half term before the DC had got back to where they'd left off in July, but I am aware that this view is only narrowly held: most MNetters DC are gifted therefore hit the ground running after a summer of either 'Lashings of Ginger Beer, out from dawn til dusk' or the Latin summer school in Milan they begged to attend for 4 weeks. Or away at gran and grandpa's summer house in Spain for a month. And so forth.

So everyone has their reasons to love or hate the existing arrangement- but do bear in mind it's an ancient throw-back not predicated on modern evidenced-based research! Like when Easter is so late the DC have been in school for months on end without a break. Try that with a 4 year old. And the next term is 8 weeks long in total!

I think that the english school year is fine. Here in Italy it's 3 months in the summer and then 2 weeks on Christmas and 5 days for Easter, plus the odd Bank Holiday.
3 months in the summer are lovely for the children, but an organisational nightmare for the parents.

Tansie Tue 19-Feb-13 16:23:03

TBF, though, just because the Italian school holiday arrangements are even more ridiculous that the English ones doesn't make the English ones 'fine' just a bit less ridiculous!

PIIGS countries? Oh how delightful... Thinking better about it I prefer to keep my 3 months holiday and chill hmm

jellybeans Tue 19-Feb-13 16:25:04

I like it the way it is. Love spending the holidays with DC. They are in need of the breaks. I think. I think it would be wrong to change it for childcare reasons which is usually the argument for it. It would be awful to have kids in schools almost 52 weeks of the year.

LizzieVereker Tue 19-Feb-13 16:28:54

There's a lot of evidence to suggest that the long summer break is damaging to students, and that much of the first 1/2 term in Autumn is spent "overlearning" things they've forgotten. For children from socially deprived backgrounds you notice a huge regression in their behaviour and esteem in September.

And I'm a teacher, so if I'm willing to concede that a 6 week break is a "bad thing" goodness knows what non teachers must think!

Dromedary Tue 19-Feb-13 16:36:35

The summer break is too long. The children spend half their time in not very exciting kids clubs (can't afford the fun expensive ones) that I can't afford. Private school holidays are even more ridiculously long (don't see how they can justify charging what they do when the children aren't at school for half the year).
I would opt for a little less holiday, well spaced out.
NB back in the olden days of my childhood, I still did handpicking of potatoes, following the tractor. It was backbreaking, v badly paid work, and those wiry worm things were pretty disgusting. Also strawberry and raspberry picking! I was allowed to keep the money though.

Incogneetow Tue 19-Feb-13 16:46:01

I think in Italy the holiday situation is dictated by the high temperatures in southern Italy in the summer, that make it very hard to work and concentrate; unless vast sums are spent on modernising school with aircon.

Incogneetow Tue 19-Feb-13 16:46:28

What happens in the US?

jomaynard Tue 19-Feb-13 16:46:57

I love the summer holiday and wish it was longer!

But in the US system there is a lot of knowledge loss over their long summer holiday. Areas in the UK have experimented with more equitable holidays, but it doesn't seem to have caught on generally.

meditrina Tue 19-Feb-13 16:50:45

Why the resentment of inset days? They were taken out of teachers holidays, and the number of days children are in school remained exactly the same.

I'd prune the sumner hols a little and have a two week break at autumn half term: the autumn term is very long, doesn't have a single Bank holiday, and could do with breaking up a bit.

Indeed Incogneetow, and also in Northern Italy. But nowadays the majority of parents work full time at least in big cities and 3 months holidays are difficult to organize.

ReallyTired Tue 19-Feb-13 16:56:57

I like my children to have 6 weeks in the summer so that they get the chance to learn something different. (Ie. swimming courses, music weeks etc as well as going away.)

The six weeks is a massive issue for low income families who neither have the money nor the inclination to do anything constructive with the time.

Maybe paying for children to attend intensive swimming courses in the holidays would be a better use of money than paying for children to learn in school..

Dromedary Tue 19-Feb-13 17:03:15

ReallyTired - it's not necessarily to do with not having the inclination to do anything constructive with the children in the summer hols. If you're a single parent who works you only get so much holiday entitlement (usually 4 to 5 weeks a year). This has to cover inset days and all hols, which come to about 14 weeks a year. So for the other 10 weeks you have to pay for holiday club (as cheap as you can find), or try to persuade some other parent or relative to take the children for a bit. It's a struggle, including financially. I think there should be more school and less holiday. This would help with improving academic results, and more non academic stuff could be included.

TinTinsSexySister Tue 19-Feb-13 17:08:58

So there seems to be no educational benefits anyway.

I was aware of the historical reasons but wondered if it was now justifiable because it was better in some way. Seems not - bit mental really.

I think a little less and spread more evenly would make so much more sense.

I have friends in the US who, at primary level at least, are allowed to take holiday with their DCs whenever they want ie the school is open all year, apart from bank holidays, and each child has to attend for however many weeks within that.

It sounds like that is a v unusual arrangement though and I wonder how it could be managed in the classroom too. If it could though, I think it would be great.

DadOnIce Tue 19-Feb-13 17:21:09

Educational arguments aside, I do wonder how people expect shorter holidays to work in practice. There is another side to the coin - shorter holidays mean longer terms. And this has an implication which isn't often discussed.

Let's take the simplest reduction - leaving half-terms, Easter and Christmas as they are and having the summer holidays reduced to four weeks. That means the term is increased by 2 weeks. That's an additional 10 working days for every full-time teaching post in the country.

Looking at one of the smallest primary schools, which might have six teaching staff, that's an additional 60 working days just for the staff of that one tiny school.

Now look at a medium-sized secondary school, which might have 60 teaching staff. That's an additional 600 working days to pay for.

Think about that story up and down the country, several thousand times over - plus all the extra funding for ancillary staff, overheads, etc. - and we're talking an extra injection of millions into the Department of Education. Some people already have enough resentment (misguidedly) of public servants' salaries coming out of their taxes. How would they react to this additional burden on the budget requirements?

Mominatrix Tue 19-Feb-13 17:32:23

In the US, the value of long summer holidays is dependent on what you have access to. It has been shown that those from more deprived families slide backwards whilst those from more affluent households don't experience the same slide. If you can afford it, there are amazing summer opportunities - all kinds of enrichments camps, summer schools including university courses (many universities including Ivys open their summer courses for able high schoolers), internships, foreign study, etc. If one can afford them, the activities available are really amazing.

There are some state schools (charter schools) which have successfully raised attainment in poorer neighbourhoods by vastly decreasing the length of the summer holidays and also some summer programs specifically targeting those from poorer backgrounds which have also been successful.

EvilTwins Tue 19-Feb-13 18:39:00

Why does this come up so frequently? School holidays have been the same for such a long time- I'm always a bit hmm about people who complain about having to sort childcare- it can't have come as a surprise...

Not helpful, I know.

FWIW, I teach secondary and have never found much of a problem with students forgetting things over the summer. Maybe it's more prevalent at primary. The other thing is that, even with Yr10 & yr 11 students, they're tired by the end of each term- they need the break.

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