On the long, long holidays

19th July 2013 at 01:00

I was very interested to note that two out of the three children interviewed in your Kids Talk feature (5 July) recognise that a six-week holiday can be a long and fruitless time away from school, certainly after the initial three weeks when "you get the fun stuff over and done with".

I know I am in a minority and always have been when I say that school holidays should be reviewed. Especially the six-week summer. I have never relished the long summer break, as a child, a student, a teacher and a mother.

The six-week break was initially instated so that the wealthy townsfolk could decamp to their summer homes. Rural and impoverished children had no choice but to work the land, attend to brothers and sisters and help with the running of the household.

During a recent discussion on BBC Radio 2, in light of Michael Gove's declaration that school holidays need to be reviewed in England and Wales, a head from a deprived inner-city school revealed that since it went to a seven-term school year, there has been an improvement in attendance, achievement and family involvement.

These days, many parents have no choice but to work, school holidays or not, while facing increased childcare costs. Add to that the inevitable hike in the outlay for a family holiday at home or abroad and very quickly the odds are stacked against a significant number of households. No wonder "unauthorised absences" are on the rise.

We must also consider how children actually learn these days. Not just what, but how. As technology becomes easier to access and social networking sites and computer games dominate much of children's free time, do we honestly believe that a brief recap on the previous term's learning is effective after a six-week break?

During a target-setting meeting with a pupil in fifth year whom I had agreed to mentor, he admitted that he spent far too much time on Facebook and was afraid that it would have an impact on his exam results.

Instead of multiple in-service days, which usually get sucked up with meetings, a week of being in school without pupils would be so much more productive. We had an unexpected school closure because of a failed heating system last winter and staff were able to "just get on with stuff" - important stuff that always takes a back seat on in-service days: time for networking, reflecting, planning, talking.

Instead of countless spring bank holidays, a discussion needs to be had about spreading the load. We had a five-week term between February break and Easter, and then a 12-week term from Easter to June, which became increasingly frenetic, especially for our young people with additional support needs. I know that many teachers, including myself, take advantage of an empty school during the holidays to catch up after what can be an exhausting summer term, but we also need more time to plan. And rest. And reflect. And talk.

Charli Prime, Support for Learning leader, Leith Academy, North Berwick, East Lothian.

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