The one big change for schools that most people want as holiday reforms scrapped

The extent of opposition to frozen Welsh Government plans to cut the school summer holidays has been revealed in data released following consultation on the proposals. And it has also revealed the one big change that most teachers, parents, and pupils do want to happen.

Education secretary Lynne Neagle confirmed on Tuesday that proposals to cut the summer break to five or four weeks were on hold because opinion was “divided” and “equivocal”. Now details of those consultation findings have been published.

The Miller Research report shows opinions are neck and neck overall on some suggestions to alter the school calendar and also outlines the divide between parents and school staff. The education secretary said plans to shorten the school summer holidays have been delayed but not abandoned as a result of the more than 16,000 responses but any change is unlikely before 2028. For the latest analysis of the biggest stories, sign up to the Wales Matters newsletter here.

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But the one thing nearly seven in 10 people wanted was a big change for exams. A majority of consultation responses (69.18%) were in favour of holding A-level, AS-level, and GCSE results days in the same week. At the moment results for those exams are handed out on consecutive weeks in August.

Assked whether they "liked" the idea of having GCSE, AS, and A-level exam results days in the same week most said yes but there was "some concern" that being in alignment with the rest of UK would be needed, especially for A-level results. Some felt exam results the same week would give staff, pupils, and families more time away from schools during the summer rather than potentially having to return twice.

On summer holidays the consultation findings show:

  • 52.58% want the school calendar and six-week summer break to stay as it is

  • 54% don’t want a five-week summer holiday and a two-week autumn half term in return

  • 62.54% don’t want a four-week summer holidays and two weeks added to autumn and Easter in return

You can read all the arguments for and against shorter school summer holidays here

These are the percentages of different groups who wanted the six-week school summer and calendar to stay as it is:

  • All responses: 52.58%

  • Education workforce: 54.50%

  • Parents and carers: 48.36%

  • Full-time workers: 52.39%

  • Part-time workers: 42.56%

  • Tourism sector: 71.93%

  • Childcare sector: 46.10%

  • Age 17 and under: 52.82%

Opposition to five-week summer break and two-week autumn half term in return:

  • All responses: 54.01%

  • Education workforce: 50.73%

  • Parents and carers: 52.36%

  • Full-time workers: 53.74%

  • Part-time workers: 47.12%

  • Tourism sector: 76.02%

  • Childcare sector: 51.06%

  • Age 17 and under: 55.70%

The document from Miller Research shows opinion varies between different groups on any changes to the summer and school calendar. Parents and carers are more likely to support shortening the summer holidays than education workers and unions. The tourist and farming industries are also opposed to shorter summer holidays saying it will be bad for business and events such as The Royal Welsh Show. Although people were aware of the arguments around potential lost learning and safeguarding over the six-week summer break most respondents felt a longer summer helped with rest and wellbeing.

Asked if they thought the school calendar could be better scheduled to support modern life 58% of respondents agreed. More than half (54%) said changing the school year could help address social and economic disadvantage and 55% said it could help children with additional learning needs.

But the researchers made clear that for a lot of questions the responses had a nearly 50-50 split. It was also unclear which of the three options for changing the school summer holidays and calendar was preferred, the document warns..

"It is difficult to be certain which of the three options proposed in the consultation were felt to be the most or least effective as a result of the very mixed, and sometimes contradictory, feedback to the consultation," Miller Research said, adding that "more than half of the survey responses agreed that the school calendar could be better structured to tackle disadvantage and support progression, wellbeing, and modern living, whilst more than half (albeit slightly less) of the survey responses preferred option one of maintaining the current school year".

On shorter summer holidays researchers added the findings "indicated a more complex picture with parents, school governors, and youth workers broadly in favour of change on the one hand and tourism stakeholders, the education workforce, and education unions in opposition to change on the other." But the expected impacts of any changes were are varied and there was "little consensus".