UK & World News
Headteachers Want End To Long School Holidays
Headteachers are considering plans to cut the length of the six-week summer holiday to avoid teacher exhaustion and high holiday prices.
The proposal is part of a new education manifesto that the National Association Of Head Teachers (NAHT) is drawing up at its annual conference this weekend ahead of next year's general election.
It follows Education Secretary Michael Gove's call that children should have shorter holidays as well as spend longer days and terms in the classroom.
Under the current system, state school pupils in England usually get two weeks off at Christmas and Easter as well as six weeks in the summer, and three, week-long half-term breaks.
But the union suggests that holidays should be spread more evenly throughout the year.
NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said that there has been much debate and evidence recently over whether children suffer "learning loss" over the long summer holiday.
"One of the things that I'm concerned about is whether the current structure of holidays is also healthy for the people who work in schools as well," he said.
"It seems like, at the end of term, everyone is ready to drop and that actually, not reducing the amount of holiday but distributing it more evenly across the year might be one solution to that."
Under Government reforms, academies and free schools already have the freedom to set their own hours and term times and this is being extended to schools still under local council control.
Mr Hobby said that the union did not have "any particular liking" for every school setting its own dates as this could cause problems for families with children at more than one school.
Stephen Watkins, a primary headteacher from Leeds, said he was against changes to the six-week holiday.
He said teachers often come in to school during their holidays to prepare for the forthcoming term and that children "need time to assimilate the learning that has taken place".
In a speech last year, Mr Gove called for longer school days and terms, warning that the current system is out of date.
He claimed that pupils are at a "significant handicap" compared with youngsters in East Asian nations who benefit from extra tuition and support from teachers.
Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has also indicated he would like to see changes to the school calendar.
But the reforms have proved controversial, with some teachers' unions arguing that teachers and pupils already spend long hours in the classroom.