Heads to consider scrapping six-week summer break

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Head teachers are to investigate the benefits of scrapping the six-week summer holidays.

Proposals to spread holidays more evenly through the year were discussed at the NAHT union conference.

Its leader Russell Hobby questioned whether the current 13-week term structure was healthy for staff, arguing changing it could reduce stress and cut holiday prices for families.

But head teachers wanted more evidence of the benefits of such changes.

The government gave academies and free schools in England permission to vary term times earlier this academic year.

This is due to be extended to all state schools next September.

Support from head teachers means schools would be more likely to make changes to term times.

'Ready to drop'

The move also comes after Education Secretary Michael Gove toughened up rules on parents taking their children out of schools at term times for family holidays.

Now this is only allowed in exceptional circumstances with many parents complaining they face high prices for holidays in peak season.

Start Quote

If different parts of the country within local authority boundaries or regional boundaries had slightly different holiday times I think that would ease the pressure on the prices of holidays as well”

End Quote Russell Hobby NAHT

Mr Hobby said: "One of the things that I'm concerned about is whether the current structure of holidays is also healthy for the people who work in schools as well.

"It seems like, at the end of term, everyone is ready to drop and that actually, not reducing the amount of holiday but distributing it more evenly across the year might be one solution to that."

He added: "However, we don't have any particular liking for every school going its own way.

"We would like to see local or regional co-ordination, but at that point you could also have the opportunity to have a staggering of holidays around the country.

"So if different parts of the country within local authority boundaries or regional boundaries had slightly different holiday times I think that would ease the pressure on the prices of holidays as well."

He said the change would take away some of the excuses that both parents and teachers made about missing school days.

Admissions queues

Mr Hobby was talking at his association's annual conference in Birmingham, where an "education manifesto" of proposals for the next General Election was adopted.

A draft version said: "We propose more frequent, shorter holidays (adding up to the same overall number), staggered across the country on a regional basis to reduce the holiday price premium."

But this will now be qualified by a proper study into the benefits of the changes and the impact on children's learning.

The document also calls for disadvantaged pupils to be allowed to jump school admissions queues. Under the plans they would be given priority over other potential pupils by virtue of being on a very low income or benefits.

If adopted by political parties it could lead to a major change in school admissions and may radically alter the character of some schools.

Start Quote

All school places should be allocated in a fair and transparent way”

End Quote Department for Education

The thinking behind it is that presently many disadvantaged families are effectively priced out of the catchment areas of good schools by high house prices. This means it is harder for poorer children to attend the better schools.

Mr Hobby says: "Looked-after children currently get priority in admissions.

"What if we extended this right to all children on free school meals, who could automatically go to the head of the admissions queue for any school their parents chose?

"At a stroke, this would limit the house price barrier to good schools and secure more firmly the comprehensive principle of education."

The NAHT resolved to carry out an impact assessment of the policy before presenting the arguments before the main political parties.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "More parents and children have the choice of a good school place thanks to our reforms - the number of children in failing secondary schools has fallen by a quarter of a million since 2010.

"Academies and free schools can already give priority to those children eligible for the pupil premium while maintained schools are able to apply to the secretary of state to do the same.

"The new admissions code is clear that all school places should be allocated in a fair and transparent way."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    As a teacher I get so irritated with the general ignorant population. Yes, there are teachers who are lazy, but they are also BAD TEACHERS (they do exist). I love 6 weeks in the summer. I usually spend 2 weeks working and 4 weeks relaxing. The other "holidays" are spent preparing, marking, etc. When I worked for the private sector, the holidays were my own - free of work...not as a teacher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    I liked your comment Robyn, its good to think that someone is thinking of the main people who would be affected, the students. The main focus should be on the children's and young adult's education and their well-being. To give these learners the best chance to succeed, actions to achieve this should be the main priority. I believe they deserve a long break in the summer to totally unwind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    "At a stroke, this would limit the house price barrier to good schools and secure more firmly the comprehensive principle of education" Ever heard of the law of unintended consequences? Experts dream up schemes which often don't work out as intended. In any event I believe that the comprehensive principle is a failed principle. What about trying to improve the under-performing schools?

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    This topic always gets brutal.
    Brits work too hard full stop.
    We have fewer holidays than many of our European neighbours, and too many lof us live to work, not the other way around.
    Might get somewhere if we could acknoowledge this.
    Productivity is NOT the same as time spent on the coal face.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    Every year it's the same

    For six weeks I dread seeing these children destroying my neighborhood. Ripping down signposts and screaming and swearing like demented banshees because the parents allow them to do it

    Now, the selfish lot complains because they might have to be inconvenienced and lumbered with them like the rest of society

    The teachers deserve a medal these days not criticism

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    There are a lot of complaints being made about teachers being too highly paid, getting too much holiday and doing far less work then any other human. To those I say: If you think the job is so easy, why don’t you quit your job and teach instead?

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    Disadvantaged pupils get automatic first pick on which school to attend?

    I can see that going down like a lead balloon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    I am a teacher and teaching is my 2nd career. Teachers typically work 50-60 hours per week, but are not paid overtime for this. The average working year for a teacher is no shorter than for most employees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    I take it this is from personal experience and you are not generalising?
    In my experience I have come across children like that, but the vast majority are well balanced and well brought up.
    The problem in the classroom is the odd child that makes it hard for the teacher, and we can't have things hard for the teacher can we? The rest get tarred with the same brush, apparently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    "Ban phones in school for students (This is a must)."

    I'm struggling to believe I just read that. Do you mean to say they are NOT banned? Why not? Has the world gone mad?

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    As a student, like many others, who takes exams seriously, the impacts on the exam set up concerns me. Each halfterm and the Christmas holiday students from yr9+ prepare for exams. These breaks from school are the correct amount for revision whilst helping to prevent students from a breakdown.
    Also, the yr10&12 summer holiday is not a complete holiday with many students preparing for next year

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    As a secondary school teacher, yes the six week holiday is fab and I can get lots done other than catching up but would much prefer 4 weeks for the summer. Longer at Christmas and Easter would be good. We need to adopt a similar approach to France where the holidays are staggered according to region so everyone can have cheap holidays at somepoint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    Do away with the summer break? A crazy idea. The government made a grievous error making it effectively illegal to take two weeks out and now the union offers the equivalent of 'turning the ceiling' in order to screw in the lightbulb as a solution. This is why politicians and unions need to stay ot of education.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    It appears to me that many here are thinking purely of themselves, while they are doing our children no favours whatsoever. School isn't just about education, it's about preparing for a working environment. Perhaps holidays should be graduated according to age with fewer holidays at a later stage. Additionally, keep the work within school without bringing it home. Isn't that how most people work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Suddenly so many are concerned that the poor darlings will not get enough 'rest & fresh air' if they no longer get a six week holiday in one go, and yet for the most part, parents seem happy for the rest of the year to sit their children down with a Playstation and other video games to keep them occupied rather than devote quality time and effort to help them advance in their studies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    Stupid. Cheap holidays high priority to head teachers, not education, sounds about right.

    Holidays as in paid for, especially abroad, are totally and utterly unnecessary. No one needs one, no one needs a cheaper one.

    Take your children out of a place you took and we funded from our taxes just for a cheap holliday deal and you should be funded thousands, to make quite sure you lose out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    as a student i think 6 weeks is good because of our exams at the end of the year and i also think that we need to rest because of our work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    It's easy for people to call for changes in holidays and jump on the 'teachers are lazy' bandwagon. Yes, it is a luxury having such long holidays but they are there for the benefit of the students. I've no problem with the length of the terms or the length of the holidays. With adequate planning 6 weeks is enough for a topic and the holidays gives the students the rest they need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    @597 bigbird6160 "And he gets nowhere near as long as teachers. Or their salary."
    All the more reason to get an education and stop boo hooing. Albeit, university sets you into the debt cycle for years...holiday...not for many teachers.

    @600 Diana_France
    B A L O N E Y!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    If Teachers spent the pupils' holidays in the school building doing course preparation, report writing, planning etc. etc. I would listen to them. School governors suggest meetings mid-August, blank faces all round, but why not? They claim to be working all that time, as hard as in term time. Nonsense. I have teacher friends, they don't do a stroke of school work during the holidays.


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