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Changes to holidays - debate on woman's hour

(356 Posts)
fivecandles Thu 21-Jul-11 10:50:12

Apparently Nottingham LEA is piloting a change to school holidays such that the long summer holiday is reduced to 4 weeks but the half-terms become 2 weeks long so no time lost in total, just redistributed. I think it's a really good idea for all the reasons given on the programme and I'm a teacher. Anyone else got thoughts?

changeforthebetter Thu 21-Jul-11 10:55:05

Hmm, I can see that might ease the pressure of finding childcare for 6 weeks in the summer if you don't work term times only. It might also help teachers out as some have said to me that they are so stressed and exhausted by the summer break it takes them ages to get back to normal energy levels. It still allows for a good four weeks in the summer which is a long break. So, I think generally it's OK but I will be interested to see what other teachers say (am starting ITT in the autumn so this is really relevant to me - it would be a bugger if I had to move out of county to get work so my school-age kids had radically different holidays to me)

irregularegular Thu 21-Jul-11 10:55:58

I think it's probably a good idea to have the holidays more spread out - though we only have 6 weeks in summer, so it would be more holiday in total.

For me personally, it would be a pain - I'm a uni lecturer with long summer breaks between terms and no half terms. Half terms are a problem for me already, without making them longer!

For the greater good, however, I think I approve. It would give a wider range of times when families can taker a long holiday and generally pace things better over the year.

fivecandles Thu 21-Jul-11 11:00:53

Yep, on Woman's Hour several people said it would have to be national to really work otherwise it would make life more rather than less difficult for working parents.

One of the main arguments in favour is the way that children end up going backwards over the holidays - this is more pronounced in children from more deprived backgrounds and is therefore one more factor widening the gap between the attainment of children from different backgrounds.

wheresthepimms Thu 21-Jul-11 11:05:20

when we lived in the state some schools did this, but then they closed other schools in the area and slightly jigged the school term times so that they could fit 2 schools into 1 building (saving money etc) with the pupils working on a year round rota system so the building was never over capacity, some kids in some on holiday. The teachers however ended up working longer, but it worked for the parents as the kids got time off a strange times when holidays were cheaper.

AandO Thu 21-Jul-11 13:21:39

Just purely from a child's perspective - when I was little I loved loved loved long summer holidays running around the fields. I can see how they can be a problem for parents if they have to go to child care though of course.

Here in Ireland we have different school holidays anyway, the summer hols are 8 or 9 weeks in primary school, 12 weeks in secondary school. The first half term is one week, christmas hols are two weeks, easter hols are two weeks, there is a two day half term also, then three bank holidays. Supposedly kids in primary school do 183 school days a year here.

fivecandles Thu 21-Jul-11 13:33:38

I think the arguments are child-centred in that they're about improving children's ability to learn. A month is still a very long summer holiday but children and their families would also benefit from longer half-term holidays of 2 weeks. This would make it easier to go away out of peak season.

wheresthepimms Thu 21-Jul-11 14:08:45

but would it holiday companies are not stupid they would just make all year peak season, in Germany they rotate the summer holiday through areas, so as not to have the huge demand for holidays at one time. One area (like a county) start in May through to the last area in August. Well guess what German holiday companies charge peak prices from May through to September to cover the whole period and make the most money, we would end up with peak periods at half term for 2 weeks not 1.

Personally I like the long summer holidays (mine get 9-10 weeks) when we lived in the USA you got 3 months and it was great, plenty of time for day trips or a big camping holiday driving around. I am however a SAHM so the childcare is not an issue for me.

Blu Thu 21-Jul-11 14:15:45

Oh, fabulous - more holiday at the bloody miserable Feb half term. Great for those who can afford to go somewhere hot - bloody miserable for the rest of us, and expensive to arrange days out in cold weather.

We already have more than a fair share of bank hols on the cold, windy and rainy months - PLEASE let them not take away more hol time in the summer.

How will we all be able to book hol cottages, caravan sites, holiday park places for the summer hol if the whole country is taking it's hols within 4 weeks?

How will businesses be able to be family foiendly and give leave during school hols if everyone wants it within one of two 2 weeks slots?

I think this is a TERRIBLE idea.

Blu Thu 21-Jul-11 14:17:13

fivecandles - but peak season would then become whenever the 2 week half term would be. Half terms are already peak season.

Though peak season in a caravan holiday park in Feb or Oct is not my idea of a great time.

AandO Thu 21-Jul-11 14:19:11

Wheresthepimms - I agree that this is what would happen!

Fivecandles - I don't know the stats but I presume children from countries with long summer hols such as Ireland do not end up any worse off academically in the long run in comparison to kids in the UK.

wordfactory Thu 21-Jul-11 14:31:58

Personally, it makes no difference to us as I work from home.
However, would these changes not have abhugely detrimental effect upon all those businessess who rely on holiday cash in the summer months?

The little ice cream parlour in a seaside town in Scarborough isn't going to be able to make up the shortfall in February is it?

wheresthepimms Thu 21-Jul-11 14:34:20

wordfactory do you not go out eating ice cream at the beach in the snow?grin Honestly you need to get out more

snorkie Thu 21-Jul-11 14:44:01

Having 2 weeks in May/June wont work at GCSE-A level age (ie yr10-13). Unless of course the exam boards change their exam schedules too. So the extra weeks will be in October and February which isn't when I'd choose to have my holidays (skiing excepted).

I don't really think a 6 or 7 week summer holiday is all that harmful - after all independent schools have 8 or 9 weeks and seem to do OK.

Mowlem Thu 21-Jul-11 14:53:27

I think it is very sensible. I've been teaching 15 years now, and remember years ago my local LEA looked at that model and I roughy it sensible then. I think a month is long enough for the summer hols, and the weeks could be added to the other hold when a week really is not long enough. Agree that the mat holiday would have to change nationally to make the exam boards follow suit.

fivecandles Thu 21-Jul-11 14:58:10

Hmm.. a month is actually still a very long summer holiday and I think a lot of people would argue that it would be hugely beneficial to have 2 week half-terms which mean you could get away more if that's your bag.

However, the principle arguments are about the advantages to CHILDREN of shorter summer holidays.

Of course, it's great if your family can afford to take you travelling the world for 6 weeks and do all sorts of wonderful educational and social things with you but sadly this is just not possible for most families. It's not so great if you're from a disadvantaged background and you're pretty much left to your own devices. One thing that was said is that vandalism and petty crime soars during the summer holidays.

And as far as the stats go, YES, there is evidence that kids from poorer backgrounds go backwards each year and this has a long-term cumulative effect. Middle class kids plateau.

I understand people may have their personal gripes but I would like to think that people are able to take into account what is best for people and children in particular as a whole. We only have such long summer holidays because historically kids were expected to help bring in the harvest. Perhaps, in the 21st century, it's time to accept that things can and should change?

fivecandles Thu 21-Jul-11 15:01:47

'I don't really think a 6 or 7 week summer holiday is all that harmful - after all independent schools have 8 or 9 weeks and seem to do OK.'

The thing is that it's not about what you personally might think is it? It's about EVIDENCE that long holidays have a negative effect on children and disproportionately affects those children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Yes, indepednent schools have long holidays but children from well off backgrounds are affected least plus their parents are more likely to be able to fork out for holiday clubs, activitiy schemes, nannies etc.

fivecandles Thu 21-Jul-11 15:03:44

Link to the prog is here by the way

changeforthebetter Thu 21-Jul-11 15:53:06

Don't independent schools "do ok" because they have class sizes of 12 (my hairdresser's DC) rather than 32 (my DD)?

The argument about the effect of a longer break on kids from less advantaged backgrounds is a powerful one. I hated the post-summer holiday lag with DD. She struggled to get back into the right frame of mind and she is not an academically confident kid to start off with (but she must be middle class as I have a butter dish wink). I'm not sure the fact that February is cold and wet is much of a case. You don't actually have to take your kids on loads of expensive outings, you may be pressured or pestered into it.

wheresthepimms Thu 21-Jul-11 16:01:35

changeforthebetter outings don't have to be expensive, but with 4 DCs in my house when it is school holiday time we have to get outside. We go to the park, feed the ducks, take a trip on bikes, have a picnic whilst people watching at the train station (strange but fun when you have list of people wearing x you must tick off to win the chocolate biscuit). My eldest DD (10) reads about 2 books a day so we walk to the library a lot so in the cold wet Feb this would not be nice.

snorkie Thu 21-Jul-11 16:08:43

OK, so this benefits poorer children who regress, but middle class children who don't are losing out on their long holidays (I admit I love the long holidays, which always seem to be over all too quickly imo). So wouldn't a better solution be to have American style summer camps, with poorer children having a 2-week (say) entitlement?

wheresthepimms Thu 21-Jul-11 16:58:30

snorkie you forget everything in this country is aimed at making life easier for the poorer children, us middle class families just have to put up and shut up as we are not considered wealthy enough or poor enough to count grin [wait for the flaming]

alemci Thu 21-Jul-11 17:15:18

I love the long summer break. Leave it as it is. I don't think it is harming anyone's learning. I hear what you are saying wheres.

hocuspontas Thu 21-Jul-11 17:29:14

But being a child isn't all about school. Long summers lazing around are what we all remember with affection. Two wet weeks in Feb - who wants that? Schools accept that a few children may regress during the long break and teachers will teach accordingly. The majority are fine IME (infants). Summer camps sound good, if they were free and targeted accurately.

AandO Thu 21-Jul-11 18:01:13

Well said hocus. Childhood should be about fun! Ok they need an education, but I think there needs to be more of a balance, just doing nothing is an important part of childhood. There has to be another way in terms of impact upon kids from poorer backgrounds, shortening the summers hols cannot be the only option, there is never just one way of sorting out a problem.

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