'Teachers, please: forget about our children and put your feet up'
And so, here we are: classroom walls cleared, lost property boxes emptied out, the skeletons of abandoned scooters prised off bike racks, and the distant thud of a million school bags being kicked under beds. School’s out for the long summer holidays, and children and teachers are looking forward to a well-earned break – while parents are staring down the barrel of six weeks (or thereabouts) without childcare.
When we set out to ask Mumsnet users whether they thought the school summer holidays were too long, we were, to be honest, expecting an answer firmly in the affirmative.
As with our survey back in May about whether Sats should be scrapped, the exercise was undertaken in parallel with TES asking for teachers’ views and the First News children’s newspaper asking pupils what they thought– and we were all rather expecting teachers and pupils to fiercely defend the long vacation while parents begged for relief.
Instead, most parents told us pretty firmly that they like the summer holidays just as they are, with 61 per cent saying that they aren’t too long and 34 per cent saying they are. It seems that despite the difficulty of juggling childcare, the guilt of seeing your children spend hours in front of screens and the need to cater for an apparently endless demand for snacks, parents are mostly convinced that the long, lazy weeks of summer offer their children things that other shorter holidays cannot.
The chance to be well and truly bored, for example: Mumsnet users are quite big advocates for an occasional spot of boredom. Being bored produces many great and creative ideas, says one parent; failing that, it increases the chances of the dishwasher getting emptied.
Parents also seem to feel strongly that children need time to properly rest and recharge their batteries; school life can be demanding and stressful, particularly in exam years, and some parents observe that it’s only around the third or fourth week of holiday that children unclench.
There’s quite a lot of self-awareness around the childcare issue. Working parents are crying out for more affordable, high-quality childcare; many think this could be hosted in school buildings by non-school staff; but they’re clear: they don’t think policy should be shaped by the needs of parents’ workplaces.
Finally, there’s a cheering degree of concern about the welfare of teachers and school staff. Nobody knows better than parents how demanding it can be to keep children enthused and focused, day after day.
Individual quibbles and gripes aside, the overwhelming message from Mumsnet users to teachers at this time of year is: “Thank you for everything that you do. Sincere apologies for all those times we forgot to sign the reading record. And please: try not to even think about school for the next six weeks.”
Justine Roberts is founder and chief executive of Mumsnet. See mumsnet.com/talk/education
This is an article from the 29 July edition of TES. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here