I’ve never understood the logic of the long Summer break for schools and colleges – which probably explains why I devised a course that didn’t have one. However that does now put me in rather a unique position to comment on the pros and cons around the idea of scrapping the traditional school holidays.

My research (aka google) informs me that the long holidays were first introduced to allow children to work the fields in the Summer. Now if this is true (for completely disclosure I didn’t spend days trying to research the origin) there really is no reason why we’ve kept this pointless tradition, other than this is what we’ve all grown to accept as ‘normal’. 

A long break is so problematic though. The basic economies of attempting to sort out childcare for long breaks is soul destroying. Who can afford to take 6 weeks off yet you’re working to pay for . . . childcare. The cost of holidays and breaks during official school holidays sky rocket because of course you now get fined if you take your child away during school time. So you’re forced to pay for a more expensive holiday if you’re lucky enough to get away, and then when you’re back you’re pay for childcare. It makes no sense at all.

Today Nadhim Zahawi the Education Secretary announced that all schools will soon have to work to a 32.5 hr week. Now he fails to mention the fact that under the Tories a lot of schools can’t even afford to staff the hours that they’re doing already. . . but let’s skip over that (for this blog). The fact is I believe that our children really would benefit from more school time . . . but also more regular breaks.

So at The MTA we work all year around – we do 10 weeks of term then 3 weeks off. What if all schools simply had to commit to 39 weeks a year BUT they could take their breaks where they wanted to.  Surely teachers, parents and children would benefit from this. Gone would be the nightmare costs of a ‘bulk’ of childcare, holidays would be spaced out better (rather than a big chunk in the middle of the year), teachers wouldn’t have to crawl to the end of term desperate for the break as their breaks could be spaced out throughout the year, we’d lose the horrific price hike of holidays (which hopefully would make an away break slightly more accessible for people), children wouldn’t be bored in the holidays missing their friends, anxious children wouldn’t be dreading going back to school after the long Summer break, as they’ve only ever been away from school for a couple of weeks. 

The argument that I’ve heard in universities when this has been proposed is around maintenance. . . when would the big maintenance jobs get done if there wasn’t a big Summer break. Well you know, simple creative logistical planning would sort that out. 

Just because we’ve always had these ridiculously overblown Summer breaks doesn’t mean that we should stick with them.

I’d love to spend more time with my children and my wife during their school breaks, but we can seldom spend family time together as one of us has to work, so instead we have to split the childcare. Similarly growing up I never went away with both of my parents as we couldn’t afford to go away during “stop fortnight” (when the mines and steelworks all down tools for a couple of weeks every Summer), so I’d spend that fortnight with my dad and then go away with my mum. They couldn’t afford childcare so we were forced to split our break between both parents. Some 50 years later and my family have to make the same choices.

Divide the school year up into smaller chunks, with more regular breaks, once you get your head around it it truly makes sense. 14 years in and the only downside is that my holidays never coincide with my children’s. Now then. . . if we abolished the 3 term/big break system, maybe we could all have some true family time with our loved ones, at a cost that we can afford.