Spread long summer holiday out over the year, say heads

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THE TRADITIONAL six-week school summer break should be cut to stop staff exhaustion and reduce holiday prices, head teachers have claimed.

The National Association of Head Teachers has claimed that holidays should instead be spread more evenly over the year. The union is considering the proposal as part of a new education manifesto which was being drawn up at the annual conference at the weekend ahead of the General Election next year.

Other plans up for discussion include reform of school admissions to ensure that the poorest pupils are given priority for places – including at private schools, and a cap on teachers’ total weekly working hours. The draft manifesto also includes calls for the Pupil Premium – extra money for the poorest pupils – to be extended to two-year-olds and for staff working in early years education to have qualified teacher status.

Under the current system, state school pupils in England usually get two weeks off at Christmas and Easter as well as six weeks in the summer, and three, week-long half-term breaks. But the system has been under the spotlight recently, in part due to rising concerns about high holiday prices when children are off school.

The NAHT’s General Secretary Russell Hobby said there has been much debate recently over whether children suffer “learning loss” over the long summer holiday, although much of this comes from the United States which operates a different system from England.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Stephen Watkins, a primary head teacher from Leeds, said staff often come in during their holidays to prepare for the forthcoming term and children “need time to assimilate the learning that has taken place”.