Ah, the summer holidays are here! School children across the country have 6 weeks or more of school free days to look forward to. But for adults, the summer holidays are not so carefree. Planning a holiday? Then you have the huge rate increases to budget for. Work full time? Then you may have the issue to child care to deal with. 6 weeks of summer clubs and babysitting fees is a good chunk of money in a relatively short space of time. And even if you don’t need to worry about child care because you or your partner don’t work, or perhaps a kindly relative is able to look after them, how to make sure that you children are active and entertained for so long?
The issue of the summer school break has long been debated. It puts extra pressure on parents who have to take time off work to care for young children, and any holidays taken during this time are far more expensive than at any other time. Moreover, many people argue that such a long break has a detrimental effect on students themselves.
More and more people are turning to summer schools and tuition to fill the time and to help their children keep their skills up. Is that fair for those who cannot afford such extra help? Or even, if we suppose that students need 6 weeks of holiday to recover after each year of school, is it fair on those students who do not have a proper break?
However, is this debate really about the best interest of the children? Or is the argument about a “dip” in levels over the summer simply a way to legitimise arguments against long holidays? Is it such a bad thing to consider the needs of parents and teachers? But do teachers really want it and should inconveniencing parents be more of a concern than students’ emotional needs?
When Michael Gove was Education secretary, he argued that the education system in parts of the Far East, where they have longer days and fewer days off, should be a model to aspire to. However, many of those who criticised this assertion referred to the fact that we already have longer days and shorter holidays than many other European countries which outperformed us on the recent PISA tests. So is it quality or quantity that is the problem?
Many argue that children need 6 weeks off to relax, to spend time with their family and to pursue their own interests. Spreading the holidays more evenly across the year would not give children a long enough break to get the respite they need away from the pressure and stress of school.
Academies, free schools and private schools have the authority to decide their own term dates and holidays. State schools will also be able to do this from 2015. But would this help? Most academies, free schools and private schools still have similar holidays to state schools. So will anything actually change when the change comes in to effect in state schools? And if it did, those parents with children in different schools might worry that without some co-ordination within a district, they could end up having children off at different times which would make the problem worse, rather than better.
One popular idea to help with holiday costs is staggering summer holidays in different parts of the country so that schools don’t all break up at the same time. But would staggering the summer holidays really help? Or would it just stretch out the peak period so that we pay more for longer each year? Wouldn’t only those who break up first or go back last really benefit? As more schools break up, the demand for holidays can only increase and so will prices. Moreover, employees with children will have to battle each other to get those weeks off work in order to go on holiday.
So what is the solution? Should parents to have the right to 6 weeks off over the summer holidays? Should there be caps on price increases in a free market to stop holidays being so expensive? Perhaps there should be benefits for low income families to spend on holidays, child care and summer tutors? Or maybe the Government should fund summer schools and clubs which would enable parents to keep working and their children to stay active?
Whatever the answer, it won’t be a quick fix and it won’t suit everyone. Hopefully, though, it will have our children’s best interests at heart.
Exley, S. (May 2014), The heat is on over long summer holidays, http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6426548, visited 29/07/14
Morrison, A. (February 2014), MPs debate cost of going away during school holidays, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26289805, visited 29/07/14
Paton, G. (May 2014), Head teachers: scrap the six-week summer holiday, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10805732/Head-teachers-scrap-the-six-week-summer-holiday.html, visited 29/07/14
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