A shadow falls over summer

21st August 1998 at 01:00
NOT LONG enough, many teachers will no doubt be saying about the summer holidays now come to an end. Too long by far, parents might reply. The seven weeks enjoyed by most schools owe nothing to reasoned debate about the best way of organising the teaching year. They are a tradition arising from the agricultural calendar which many families had to observe until comparatively recently. Industry in the era of large factories might have imposed a different discipline. Whole towns would shut down for only a single week, latterly two.

There will be alarm that Aberdeen has suggested shorter terms and more breaks, and the fact that Craighalbert, a centre for children with cerebral palsy, works an extended year (page six) will be explained as, literally, "special needs". The profession is willing to contemplate upheaval to the curriculum but not to the pattern of work and leisure. Remember how "tattie holidays" metamorphosed into the non-vocational "October week"?

Further education colleges and even hidebound universities have had to revise their calendars. They are subject to consumer pressure, largely from mature and part-time students. School holiday dates are decided by councillors. So far parents have not used school boards to argue contrary timings. But if pupils become overtired in the long winter and spring months, only to be bored in damp summer, there is surely a case for at least inquiring how teaching, learning and play are best organised.

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