Ken James Headmaster at Red House School

A recent article published in The Telegraph stated that the summer holidays have a negative impact on the health of parents. Their routines change because the routines of their children have changed leading to a compromised diet and irregular sleep patterns. The wallets of parents tend to suffer too as parents strive to fill the summer months with fun activities.

But what about the impact on the children? Should schools still operate an educational model which sees children absent for a number of weeks during the summer? Should we continue to run a model implemented in the Victorian era when our economy was more heavily reliant on agriculture and children were required to toil in the fields during the summer?

One of the major concerns put forward against the long holiday is that the children easily forget the work they have been taught. As a mathematics teacher, I know daily repetition is key to success.   However, others would stress that this is not insurmountable. Some pupils forget work taught the lesson before never mind six weeks ago. Re-enforcement is always necessary and pupils still have some recall even after the summer break.

A radical approach suggested is that the working day and working year should mirror ‘normal’ working conditions, with schools providing cover from 9-5 and most holidays being two weeks in length with four weeks in the summer. Whilst reapportioning the holidays would be cost neutral, providing greater cover in schools during the school day would not. Outside observers may think teachers work 9am-3pm but they do not see the extraordinary amount of preparation and marking colleagues do outside the face-to-face contact they have with the children.  Greater cover means greater cost and this is unlikely to happen when school budgets are cut.

At Red House we run holiday clubs which undoubtedly help parents but this comes at a cost. We recently hosted a church activity week which provided activities for local children for free. However, this is not a sustainable answer.

The reality is if we were to redefine the school year for our children with no set parameters, we would not adopt the model we currently have in place. It is not the best model for parents and there are models which would work better from an educational perspective. However, there are parameters and, therefore, change will occur through evolution not revolution. The availability of holiday clubs will increase and I predict a greater availability of learning clubs where children are actively engaged in learning rather than merely enjoying fun activities. However, this requires funding. We can run it in the independent sector. Will the government do so in the state sector?

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