Talking Point: Should school summer holidays be shorter?

Parents can find it difficult keeping children entertained during the summer holidays. (Rex)
Parents can find it difficult keeping children entertained during the summer holidays. (Rex)

School holidays have always been tinged with controversy.

Whether it’s parents pulling their kids out of school in term-time, or the length of holidays themselves, they’re often not far from the headlines.

In June 2016, Barnsley Council became the first in England to reduce the length of school summer holidays to less than five weeks. The plans, set to start in the 2017/18 academic year, will mean schools won’t break up until July 31, 2018 and will include the introduction of a two-week break in the October half-term to balance out the change.

So how long is too long when it comes to school holidays? Many teachers say the time is necessary for a break for both pupils aqnd themselves, but some parents struggle trying to arrange childcare and, indeed, entertain their little ones for the lengthy periods schools are closed.

So, should school holidays be shorter?

In the first of a new Yahoo series, we asked two experts to explain each side of the argument.

What do you think? Join the Yahoo Talking Point by posting in the comments below:

‘Firstly, children learn in block periods and retention of information deteriorates quickly.

‘Often, over summer holidays, their short-term memories have discarded information which is not strong enough to be stored in their long-term memories because of the length of time, and the fact that other new information takes its place.

‘How often, we hear teachers say that a class has forgotten a lot of what they learned over the summer!

‘Secondly, after such a long break, motivation for some children suffers. Some children struggle to regain the motivation to return to formal learning and the routines of school. And a child who is not motivated to learn, will not achieve.

‘So what is the solution? I would suggest reframing the school year into four terms of more equal time, so that each break is around 3 to 4 weeks maximum.

‘The statutory number of days in school would not be less, but it would be distributed over the year more evenly.

‘Breaks are essential for us all. Certainly children need these regularly, but the current pattern in the school calendar is imbalanced and out of date. Time to change please.’

Mum-of-two Jo Otto, a former teacher of 15 years and creator of educational app Maths Rockx, disagrees.

She said: ‘Ultimately children need their holidays to just be kids, unwind from routine and procedure and to learn other skills outside of what they learn at school.

‘The summer holidays are longer and necessary to be so in order for children to have other opportunities, such as getting out and about – camping, getting into nature, travelling with family and experiencing other cultures on holidays abroad.

‘Longer holiday periods may see children ‘forget’ skills or rules, with concern they’ll fall behind when they go back. From my experience though, they pick it back up very quickly – and the benefit of time off for their developing brains and time with their family – far outweigh the cons.

‘As a school teacher and a mum, the only argument I’d make is that for a short period of 1-2 weeks, homework is just not necessary! Kids aren’t going to fall behind. Granted, children should absolutely find time or be ‘given’ time to read. That is non-negotiable in whatever form it takes.

‘I am completely biased with educational apps such as Maths Rockx though. Maths Rockx is a learning tool that children will WANT to do in their holidays. What they can do for kids in two short weeks is really quite impressive.

‘Children love to play with their parents – because we are always so busy, it’s precious time spent with them and they truly look forward to it.’