Welsh Government's school summer holidays plan confirmed

Families flock to Anglesey's beaches in the summer holidays
-Credit: (Image: Ian Cooper/North Wales Live)

The Welsh Government has mothballed plans to cut the school summer holidays and change the school year. Education secretary Lynne Neagle admitted: "Opinion was hugely divided on this," confirming that no changes will be made this Senedd term as had initially been planned.

It's unlikely anything will change before 2028 as this would require a two-year lead time.

The Welsh Government has confirmed:

  • Plans to change the school year will not happen this Senedd term "to allow schools to deliver other reforms and improve attainment"

  • Decision on timing will be deferred to next Senedd term;

  • Changes to the school year will not take place in 2025-26;

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A consultation showed a “narrow majority” in favour of changing school holidays but 16,000 responses to the plan were "equivocal and contradictory".

Shortening the school summer break was opposed by every teaching union, as well as the tourism and farming industries. The plans, rather than being abandoned, are being delayed, Ms Neagle said.

A decision on timing will be deferred to the next Senedd term but changes will not take place in 2025-26 as originally proposed. The decision follows what the Welsh Government described as “a mixed response” to a consultation on the plans to cut the school summer holidays from six to five or four weeks and move those weeks to other times in the school calendar.

It was the biggest Welsh Government education consultation on record with more than 16,000 responses. The proposals were to move a week from the start of the summer break into the autumn break creating a two-week half term . This would “to improve the education experiences of young people, especially the most disadvantaged, and align more effectively with how families live and work”, the Welsh Government said.

While “a narrow majority” of responses to the consultation were in favour of changing school holidays the findings were “equivocal and contradictory”. This “highlights [that] more discussion and exploration is needed to ensure any future amendments benefit everyone,” the Welsh Government said in a statement. North Wales Live has launched a WhatsApp community group where you can get the latest stories delivered straight to your phone

“The pause will also allow other reforms such as the New Curriculum for Wales and reforms of additional learning needs to be fully implemented and rolled out before other changes are introduced. The decision on the timing of implementation of the plans will also be deferred to the next Senedd term.

Ms Neagle added: “My starting point is always the best interests of children and young people. This means ensuring reforms are properly planned out and have the time and space to succeed.

“Opinion was hugely divided on this. To ensure we get this right we need to continue listening to and engaging with schools, teachers, unions, as well as children, young people, and parents, on how best we can implement any changes in the future.

“I am acutely aware we are asking a lot of teachers and schools. They are supporting our ambitious transformation of education in Wales and they need the time and the space to ensure these reforms deliver for children and young people.

“I want to prioritise ongoing school reforms and improving attainment and therefore no changes will be made to the school year this Senedd term. In the meantime our priority will be to maximise the support available to learners during the summer holidays including doing more to target that provision towards the poorest communities through a range of policies and activities including the school holiday enrichment programme and community-focused schools.”

Term dates for 2025-26 will be published by local authorities shortly.

The consultation by Miller Research, plus previous research by Beaufort and desk-based research by the Welsh Government, has totalled around £300,000, the Welsh Government confirmed. A separate proposal and consultation on extending the school day was also shelved last year.

Unions react to news on plans for school holidays

Laura Doel, national secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said: "We opposed the proposed reforms to the school year from the outset and therefore welcome this announcement and thank the new cabinet secretary for education for listening to the profession. Changes of this magnitude cannot be taken on a whim and need to be supported by really strong evidence that this would benefit pupils but no such evidence was forthcoming.

"While we dispute the Welsh Government’s perception that responses to the proposals in its consultation were mixed we are pleased that the profession has been given an assurance that there will be no changes to the school year during this Senedd term. This should never have been a priority, especially amid other reforms to the curriculum and alternative learning needs (ALN) provision. We are grateful to the cabinet secretary for being brave enough to put much more pressing issues to the top of her agenda rather than pressing ahead with a reform which would have had no benefit to learners.

File image of a classroom
Education secretary Lynne Neagle

Eithne Hughes, director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said: “We are relieved that this decision has been made although calling it a ‘pause’ sounds like a face-saving exercise as it is surely pointless to go round this loop again. As the consultation proved, and as we knew all along, there is no unanimous call from parents or teachers for changes to be made to the school holidays.

“It’s disappointing that this issue has been given such high priority by the Welsh Government. There are so many more pressing challenges in education such as embedding a new curriculum, dealing with funding and teacher shortages, and improving rates of pupil attendance. We hope the government can now focus its attention on the issues that really matter and move on from this consultation which has been an unwelcome distraction and an enormous waste of time."

Other organisations who signed a joint letter with the NAHT Cymru opposing the plans were Nasuwt Cymru, NEU Cymru, UCAC, ASCL Cymru, NFU Cymru, FUW, Unison Cymru, GMB Wales and South West, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, and the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions.

Tories say plan should be 'scrapped'

Welsh Conservative MS Tom Giffard, shadow education minister, said: “Education in Wales is in crisis with soaring absenteeism, a shocking decline in education standards, the worst Pisa results in the UK and rising incidences of violence plaguing our schools.

“We have long called for the Labour government to scrap this distraction and get on with tackling the problems they have created in education over the past 25 years. Kicking this into the long grass is not good enough. Labour cannot ignore every teacher’s union, let alone the tourism and business sectors, who are against the plans – the policy needs to be scrapped completely.”

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