Love them or hate them the summer holidays are coming to an end. These are the holidays that are the longest in the school year and give a welcome break to teachers, parents and children but can for various reasons throw up a host of logistical headaches for parents. I have heard and read several news stories this year about whether the length of the long summer holidays are justified in this modern age and have any real value. Here we look the pros and cons:
Why do we have such a long break?
Historically, summer holidays are believed to be from the Victorian era where the long break was needed so children could work in the fields. Alternatively, the TES (Times Educational Supplement) has argued that it was actually the unions’ fight for eight-hour working days and legal holidays that encouraged the long breaks so children could spend time with their families. Whatever the reason, these long holidays are well established in the school calendar.
If like me you are a teacher, you will relish the thought of a long break to recharge, recoup and re-plan all the schemes of work for the year ahead. It is time to evaluate the year just gone and have time to fine-tune your teaching for the year ahead. The children also see it as a break between year groups, coming back to school in September a little older, a little wiser and refreshed for the new year ahead. Children also have time to do summer activities which schools do not always offer, a way to expand their experiences and make friendships with new children. Parents enjoy the long break to spend time as a family and it’s a break from the normal routine of work and school. If you don’t have children, you’ll notice the roads are incredibly quiet during rush hour!
As a teacher I know that when I get back to school this week, the children in my class won’t have seen a classroom for more than two months. Educationally we will have taken a step backwards and I will have to spend time refreshing a lot of work that has already been covered. But more than that, I find the children are out of the routine after such a long break, so it takes weeks to gear up and get the momentum back into their education. Working parents find getting good, adequate childcare over the summer is a logistical nightmare and, of course, other parents in the office all want the same time off. The solution seems to be to pour money into extra-curricular holiday clubs and activity camps as free or government-backed ones are usually full or more difficult to access.
Is there a solution?
Children need a break from school. Teachers need a break. Parents need to spend time with their children but is the long summer holiday an outdated concept? Could we instead redistribute the six weeks throughout the year and cap the summer holidays at four weeks? Schools could have more freedom to decide how they organise their school year which will mean that breaks are more evenly spread out, and parents will have more flexibility when they go away on holiday. Could schools offer optional state-subsidised activity camps in the school holidays that can help parents logistically as well as giving children a great experience? All this would involve a major rethink about how we operate the school year – but maybe, just maybe we should drag school holidays out of the Victorian era.
What do you think? Are they perfect or outdated?