The Long Summer Holiday – Love It Or Loathe It?

The six weeks break in the summer is a controversial institution. It is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or loathe it, and many have tried to abolish or change it.  A few brave schools and councils have tinkered with it or ripped it up almost entirely, but it still hasn’t been altered on a national scale, and in some years, it can even extend to almost seven weeks.

Most teachers love it – many spend term-time working during evenings and weekends, and the long summer holiday gives them the best chance to truly switch off.  However, the six-week break is also designed for pupils. It can allow them to pursue other interests and take part in activities which aren’t just academic.  It allows pupils to have a break from the stresses and strains of school, and live life at a more relaxing pace.  Many private schools give a summer holiday which can be nine weeks long – they certainly seem to think that long breaks are a good idea.

The downsides of a six-week summer break

One of the main arguments against this long break is the so-called brain drain which can happen during the holidays.  Six weeks is enough time to forget a lot of things, and this can be particularly noticeable in a subject like maths where students don’t tend to practice the core skills during the holidays.  This effect can be worse if pupils aren’t able to access interesting and stimulating activities, perhaps because their parents are on a tight budget.  If they sit at home and play computer games for six weeks, then this is going to affect them come September.

Pressures on parents

The six-week break can be a massive financial and logistical burden on parents.  Often, they need to pay for expensive holiday clubs, as well as finding money for trips out, extra food and entertainment.  Not everyone has the luxury of grandparents who can take the strain, and many parents find this a difficult time of year to cope with.

Cost of holidays

This is something which affects both parents and teachers alike.  Going away on holiday during the summer holidays is just expensive. This can drive parents to taking their children out of school during term-time, regardless of the fines and consequences for their children.  The long six-week break means that holiday companies can charge a massive premium at this time of year.  If holidays varied a bit more between councils then perhaps prices would even out a bit.

The long Autumn drag

One unintended consequence of the long summer holiday is what comes after it. The fifteen-week Autumn term can seem like an eternity and can be exhausting and gruelling for both teachers and pupils, particularly as the nights draw in.  More regularly paced holidays can avoid such long half terms. 

Set for change

The Isle of Wight Council has opted to reduce the summer holiday to five weeks with a two week break at October half term, and this is a move which was supported by around two thirds of people in a consultation.  The prospect of a cheap holiday in October certainly seems appealing and the summer holiday would still feel quite long at five weeks.  The plan is going to be introduced this year and it remains to be seen as to how popular it will be in the long run.  Cheap holidays aside – will this move drive up standards?   

Leading the conversation

As Maths Scholars you are hopefully going to be future leaders in education – helping to shape important debates and constantly striving to make things better. Where is the evidence for the long summer holiday – should it be cut, or should there just be better support given to parents who are struggling during this time of year?  What are your own personal views on the subject?  There are so many aspects of education which can be questioned, changed, improved or experimented with, and nothing ever stands still.