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Head teachers debate changes to long summer break...

(101 Posts)
HercShipwright Mon 05-May-14 08:17:11

I used the article's headline as my thread title, but it doesn't adequately represent the thrust of the article - it seems that they are considering advocating not just shortening the long summer break but also the staggering of holidays around the country. I'm not sure this could ever work, given the rigid nature of public exam dates, but my main concern is what would happen to thinks like national youth music ensembles, national youth drama and dance things, summer schools etc. If holidays were mixed up all over the country, how would they be able to organise and run these so that every kid had the opportunity to audition and attend? It seems to me that all the current ideas we are hearing about shaking things up - longer school days, changed holidays - strike (perhaps not intentionally) at arts ed. And maybe sports development too. Very worrying.

meditrina Mon 05-May-14 08:24:58

Different term patterns work perfectly well in other countries (eg Australia) and ours are really just a habit rather than in any way educationally necessary.

So they do get discussed from time to time. Four more even-length terms has support.

But I would be quite a cultural shift here. No one I'd mind, but I've heard vociferous opposition (though often based on a rose tinted view of benefits of a long break)

Setting own term dates is a power VA schools have always had and academies have had since Labour introduced them. There are now of course far more academies.

But VA schools, even when the only ones in a rural area where impact on others was minimal, never really used these powers. There's another thread which I'll try to find and link which discussed that aspect in more detail.

Picturesinthefirelight Mon 05-May-14 08:27:52

That was my first thought too.

Dd & ds had different Easter holidays this year & I know for a fact that two dancers from BRB didn't run an Easter workshop because if it, plus dd couldn't do another Easter workshop due to her brother still being at school.

Plus her school (a full time vocational one) need the revenue from the summer schools they run as well as them being a fabulous opportunity for non vocational pupils.

HercShipwright Mon 05-May-14 08:30:19

meditrina I agree that our term patterns are remotely necessary for education in eg maths. There's an argument, indeed, that the long summer break can cause especially younger kids to slip back a bit. But for kids who do music drama or dance to a high level, especially those who live far from London and don't have access to the same opportunities as others in term time, the possibility of summer schools etc is quite important.

meditrina Mon 05-May-14 08:40:57

Here are some recent threads about staggered holidays:

NAHT have to date been firm supporters of the removal of the reference to family holidays from the law on attendance.

Fishstix Mon 05-May-14 08:43:24

We've had staggered holidays in our county this year and it's been, quite frankly, brilliant! Going out for a day in half term to any 'day out' place has turned from a scrum into a pleasure again. I can see some real benefits of doing it.

They should however leave the summer break the heck alone! I love this time to reconnect with my kids and for them to do so with one another. It gives them the proper opportunity to relax and just be themselves and gives them a decent break from the relentless termly testing that seems to go on at school, even in lower years now. I wish they were longer tbh!

Retropear Mon 05-May-14 10:13:33

If they get rid of the long break nobody could ever go on a long break anywhere with their dc ever(thanks to taking your kids out for even a day in term time now being prohibited).

Yes not a yearly occurrence but as a family saving for a 6 week trip long haul I think it would be sad that from the age of 4 kids until 18 you couldn't ever do something like that with your dc.

I also feel my dc need 6 weeks in the summer as do the teachers,changing term dates won't involve giving extra holiday. Other countries manage much longer summer hols(and kids being taken out during term time) just fine.

boys3 Mon 05-May-14 10:35:54

I'm not totally sure why we consider 6 weeks to be a long time. And (and I know I should not be starting a sentence with and smile ) other countries with better educational results than us have longer (eg Finland).

tiggytape Mon 05-May-14 11:30:29

Agree boys - 6 weeks isn't that long.

In terms of other countires, most have far more time off in one block than we do.
June - Sept is not uncommon and much of Europe has the same as us or just slightly longer in the summer.

Some stagger the dates (so France has 3 zones sometimes taking different dates) but a long break in summer is still the norm and is something many people really favour.

boys3 Mon 05-May-14 12:18:57

Tiggy yes. France is interesting as three zones but the summer holiday 6th July to 1st September is the same for all three - and at 8 weeks two weeks longer than our standard. Tbh I thought the French school hols were even longer, I think part of the problem with the whole school holiday debate is that facts often get lost, and perception takes over. The other thing that I do think needs to be considered is the physical size of a country and population density. France roughly 60% bigger than UK physically, but population density about 60% less of ours

The Netherland pattern looked interesting - and in a much smaller and more densely populated - with six week summer staggered over 8 weeks.

Germany seemed even more staggered and with a lot more regions.

I guess the real problem with all this is the failure to actually clearly define what the problem is, and to have a clear evidence base for that, and instead to jump straight to a solution. I don't know if that is a deeper reflection on our educational system smile

tallulah Mon 05-May-14 12:47:08

The Easter break has been different across the UK for 2 years running. Allowed us to get a cheap "newspaper" break while other areas were still at school.

All those things in the OP don't affect very young children, and TBH how many children realistically get the option of doing any of that anyway? Great if you live in London or one of the larger cities, and great if you have a mother who doesn't work and can take you to all these places. Not so good if you are out in the provinces with 2 x FT working parents.

Even if holidays were mixed up across the country the summer in the UKis so short there would be a least one or 2 weeks of total overlap.

There is this constant droning on on MN and in RL ATM that we are no longer a Christian country and how irrelevant it is to anything else. Yet we cling to the school year based on a Christian Agricultural calendar. No child needs to help with the Harvest anymore, which was the purpose of the 6 week summer break, so why is September still the start of the year? Why not January to December? or April to April?

HercShipwright Mon 05-May-14 12:55:13

tallulah actually you are completely wrong. The activities in arts ed that happen in the long summer break are designed for people who live in the back end of beyond - as I do - with the sort of 2xFT working parent set up that means kids can't trek 100 miles (or more - it's more like 200 for us) to London of a weekend every weekend to access opportunities. National ensembles and summer schools are just that - national. They rarely take place in London. It's all about providing opportunity for other kids to access the sort of top level experiences that London kids get all the time. Without the long summer break I suspect - I don't know - that it will be much more difficult for this things to run, or exist. They will at best go back to being regional and attract regional funding (which in some places will be zilch). At worst they will become London centric like so much else. But hey. You were able to go on a cheap holiday so that's all fine then.

clearsommespace Mon 05-May-14 13:17:18

In France we used to get about 9 weeks but the summer break has recently been reduced by a few days. Last I heard the education minister wanted to shorten it further...

tiggytape Mon 05-May-14 13:43:06

I guess the real problem with all this is the failure to actually clearly define what the problem is

I suspect there are several groups will feed into the debate all eventually hoping to influence things with their own issues in mind.

Some people want to be able to take holidays in May/June when most destinations are much nicer without the July/August heat and crowds. So for them the length of the breaks might not matter so much as the timing. This is more the case since allowing term time holidays have been written out of the legislation.

Other people want cheap holidays so a staggered pattern means they could avoid the price hikes at Easter and August. However that might not be so great for people with children in 2 or 3 different schools if they're all on holiday at different times. Other people won't care about that if it doesn't affect them.

My issue is that I wouldn't want to see an overall reduction in school holidays. I am concerned that if they split the holidays between 4 terms, there will be fewer in total and no truly long breaks at all.
Many other people however have work patterns that mean they are stuck with huge childcare bills so for them, an overall reduction in the total holidays might be something they want.

My children are older now so any changes won't affect us for that many years but I really wouldn't want us to become the nation with the longest working hours, worst work-life balance and then shortest school holidays on top. Many nations have far longer holidays than us as it is.

clam Mon 05-May-14 14:00:52

Does anyone really think that the holiday companies won't hike their prices as soon as they see which weeks are being used by schools for holidays?

clam Mon 05-May-14 14:05:05

Despite having dcs doing GCSEs and A levels this term, so finishing school at the end of June, me being a teacher and dh a University lecturer, we still have only one week this summer where we are all available to go away on holiday together. That's due in part to needing/wanting to be around for results days, plus some immovable family events, but even so. Surprising really. Everyone thinks we swan off for 6 weeks at a time.
Mucking about with staggered breaks is only going to make things harder for a lot of people (and thank God were nearly through the schools business with the dcs).

tallulah Mon 05-May-14 19:38:27

Herc ^ But hey. You were able to go on a cheap holiday so that's all fine then.^ As it's the only one we are likely to get this year it is a big deal actually, and might help all the people complaining about not being able to take children out of school, which I assume started this whole subject.

I'm wrong about the location, fair enough. Never heard of most of that stuff so clearly not aimed at families like ours.

Nocomet Mon 05-May-14 19:50:28

Surely shorter summer breaks are going to make it harder for people to get time off work when they're DCs are on holiday. Staggering may make holiday destinations quieter and spread tbe eccanomic effects averaged across the country, but locally it makes things worse.

NearTheWindymill Mon 05-May-14 19:50:30

Barely relevant for us now as DC are 19 and 16 but I adored the long summer holiday - especially when they were small. We always went away for most of August and the children had lovely relaxing holidays scrabbling in rock pools, learning to surf, sail, ride, etc., and the weeks beforehand they usually did Camp Beaumont or "Own a Pony" or Sports Camp or something like that.

They learnt lots and developed lots on holiday; they had days out and lovely times.

It's easy to forget I think that 6 weeks' holiday for many many children is 6 weeks in front of the TV, 6 weeks without a Free School meal, 6 weeks without a book, 6 weeks without anyone taking much of an interest in them.

However equal education is supposed to be it cannot deal with that sort of divide and work miracles that don't mean those most in need aren't behind.

Apart from that my DC went to different schools from when the youngest was 6. Holidays were often different - too often different for comfort and that's something to bear in mind I think.

Tansie Tue 06-May-14 09:51:50

I recall this debate before. I remember an aspect 'got ugly' where a few hardcore supporters of the long holiday reminisced about their long, carefree, idyllic school hols during childhoods in Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain- at the time, all countries whose economies were collapsing and the link between a 'manana' attitude to education/work/life and economic failure was made grin.

I have always been a huge supporter of the concept of the school year being broken up into smaller chunks. 7 week half terms don't suit 5 year olds; 'less able' DC do fall back over 6 to 6.5 weeks.

Yes, private schools have long holidays but also long days (which engender howls of protest from many state parents as they'd hate for their own primary schoolers to be in school from 8am to 5 or 6pm every day)- but this is how the schools cram the curriculum in. Also, in choosing private, you could be said to be supporting a different culture with different expectations for your DC's education; there will be a couple of hours of homework every night, and it will be forensically marked, for example. In the same way, Finland has 'a different culture' to ours as well. Their results aren't necessarily always the best- read this

For the record, I am always a bit hmm about these International League Tables that demonstrate how awful British Education is; they don't- and can't- compare like with like. In the link I gave, Finland is 12th!

I agree that if you stagger the holidays DC who compete or perform nationally might find timetabling tricky- but let's face it, what percentage of the overall school population do these DC represent?

Tansie Tue 06-May-14 09:53:03

Another biggie that came out in previous debates was how many of the pro-long holidays group were SAHMs delightedly looking forward to weeks of not having to get up to get DC off to school at all! grin

HercShipwright Tue 06-May-14 10:04:00

Tansie The sort of summer schools I am talking about are often for younger kids, they level the playing field (and often offer financial assistance to those who qualify). If you have a kid interested in the arts/theatre and you live not in London they are already at a terrible disadvantage. I don't know about sport but I suspect it might be the same. What you will end up with if schemes like YMT:UK, NYT, NYMT, and all the national ensembles etc - and the many other dance, theatre and music summer schools that take place - can't function nationally any more is events running only in London, only accessible to Londoners and people in the south east or kids who go to private schools. You'd lose the funding they attract too, where they do get funding (which is becoming more and more limited anyway) because they would cease to be 'national'. And thus they would become more inaccessible to ordinary kids whose parents can't afford to shell out fortunes for unfunded things.

Picturesinthefirelight Tue 06-May-14 10:12:03

The summer school my dds vocational dance school is open to all from the age if 9-16 regardless of ability.

It gives them a chance to experience a full residential week of dance with leading teachers even if they will never make it full time (though of course some like my dd do). It also gives the vocational schools chance to spot kids with potential & is a valuable income for them too.

Bonsoir Tue 06-May-14 10:19:29

I think the long break is highly beneficial to most DC. If as a society we are worried about provision for a minority of DC during school holidays then we should address that issue, not take a blanket approach that would disadvantage the many.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 06-May-14 10:22:58


I think most of what you are referring to is quite elitist anyway.
I don't know many families who could afford the national organisations, they cost thousands and then extras on top, e.g transport.
I think more would be based at schools if the holiday pattern was changed as like you say with fewer dc at a particular time the nat organisations wouldn't survive.
I don't agree you are at a disadvantage from not living in London as we find no problem at all in Greater Manchester.
We have exceptionally good music services where people on low income/ out of work have subsidised lessons.
My dd has a different orchestra, ensemble or choir most days, and in the past has done regional theatre shows without too much of a problem being so far from London.


We H.ed and that is a plus for us, no school run and being able to lie in till 9am or later if we please.

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