Sarah Cassidy reports on a call to swop a 'pre-industrial relic' for a more even workload.
Teachers should have shorter holidays and be paid according to pupils' results, Margaret Hodge MP, told primary teachers.
Renegotiating teachers' contracts and restructuring the school year would benefit teachers, pupils and parents, Mrs Hodge told the National Primary Teacher Education Conference in Oxford.
Mrs Hodge, who chairs the Commons education committee, said the current school year was a relic of pre-industrial days when children had to help with the harvest and that teachers' holidays should be cut so their work could be spread more evenly throughout the year.
"At the moment teachers work themselves into the ground during term time but get three months a year off," she said. "As a quid pro quo for reduced holidays, schools should have more support staff to assist teachers with administration.
"A company would not tolerate its buildings standing empty for three months a year. We should not tolerate the same happening with schools."
Mrs Hodge argued that children forgot the previous term's work during long holidays, which also caused parents childcare problems.
But teachers' unions said there were no strong educational arguments to justify the expense of implementing the proposal.
John Bangs, assistant secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:
"The world has grown up around the school year as it is. Dates for exams, resits, universities and the world of work are used to that particular pattern and would have to change at great expense."
He dismissed the promise of support staff saying: "Teachers need help with administration now, regardless of what happens to the school year. A lot of a teacher's work is generated by the pupils in the classroom on a daily basis. " He also rejected Mrs Hodge's call for teachers' pay to rely on appraisals, inspection findings and pupil improvement.
"This option has been open to governing bodies but has proved very unpopular. Teachers work as a team and schools would see this as extremely divisive," he said.