Sunday, 8 August 2010

School Holidays, Why So Long

The current structure of the school year dates from the time when children were needed to help out on family farms during the summer fruit-picking season.

For some the summer is a time for new experiences, but not all children have the same access activities. Kids from more advantaged backgrounds are the ones who are most likely to get to go to these activities.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said studies suggested pupils' reading and maths abilities regressed because the summer break was too long. The IPPR suggested the summer holiday should run from mid-July to mid-August, followed by two eight-week terms before Christmas.

The IPPR's suggestion came after schools watchdog Ofsted warned that a long-term rise in education standards appeared to have "stalled".

Report author Sonia Sodha said: "There have been many positive gains in education over the last decade, but in recent years results have plateaued.
"That's reflected in statistics on anti-social behaviour and youth offending, and we know that those levels are higher during the summer holiday, particularly towards the end."

There is a dramatic change in the costs of holidays when schools are off. Parents taking children abroad for a half-term holiday are paying up to 80 per cent more for than if they went during school time. Family groups and parents accuse tour operators of taking advantage of those who cannot take their children out of school.

When asked Children have a variety of opinions,
"School holidays are brilliant; I think they should be longer!"
Johnandrew, 10, West Lothian, Scotland

"I think school holidays go on for too long because it seems like they go on for ages, but they only go on for six weeks."
Megan, 10, Edinburgh, Scotland


Ailbhe said...

Without genuinely equal access to parental leave, the burden of providing childcare during school holidays will continue to fall on women anyway, whether those holidays are in 1-, 2- or 6-week chunks. My unsupported theory is that shorter school breaks would enable more women to treat their post-childbirth careers with as much priority as men almost always can.

This is, of course, a wholly separate issue from whether it's good for the children. 30 hours a week is a pretty long time, and I can see arguments for more, shorter breaks, rather than fewer longer ones. It might be healthier.

I don't come from a can-go-on-holiday income-bracket so can't really wrap my head around those issues.

NickJ said...

I can't see teachers liking the suggestion of two 8-week terms, considering there are already many who comment that the current Autumn term is too long. I'm assuming there would be a longer October half term in your/IPPR's model though.

As Ailbhe says, you may also find the long term has a negative effect too, albeit a different one to the long break. I suspect the only way to truly assess the impact of all the different variables is to try it for a few years and see what happens.

The child-care issues could be addressed, in part at least, by play schemes or activity holidays.

It would be an interesting piece of research to compare the summer holidays of different children, and assess the link between holiday activities, parental contact time, etc and the level of regression.

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