According to a report, the summer break for schools in England should be reduced to four weeks.

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A recent report suggests that England should update its school schedule, which has remained unchanged since the Victorian era, by implementing shorter summer breaks and longer half-term breaks. This change aims to benefit both students and teachers.

The upcoming report from the Nuffield Foundation will propose changes to address educational disparities caused by the pandemic. It suggests modifying the school calendar, potentially shortening summer breaks from six weeks to four in state schools and extending autumn and winter breaks from one week to two.

The report suggests that changes should be made to the school calendar, which has remained unchanged since the Victorian era.

Lee Elliot Major, a professor who studies social mobility at the University of Exeter and is one of the authors of the report, believes that changing the academic schedule in England could be an inexpensive and successful approach to addressing the educational disparities that have arisen during the pandemic.

Major explained that distributing school breaks evenly throughout the year is a logical decision for education. This can enhance the physical and emotional state of students, improve the work-life balance for teachers, and alleviate financial burdens for parents. It also has the potential to enhance academic achievements for numerous students without incurring additional expenses.

Shortening the summer break from six weeks to four weeks would still allow teachers enough time to rest, and having two-week breaks in February and October would provide necessary time off during the most demanding times of the school year.

The report states that many people argue for shorter holidays due to concerns about students forgetting what they learned during the summer. This is particularly challenging for students from low-income families and those with learning disabilities, as they struggle to transition back into learning mode after a long break. As a result, the first term of school is often spent reviewing instead of making progress. Teachers also notice an increase in behavioral and wellness issues after summer vacation.

The request for modifications comes after the Welsh government suggested changes to the school year that would begin in 2025-26. The proposed changes include a shorter summer break of five weeks and a longer autumn half-term. More drastic measures may also be implemented, such as shortening the summer holiday to four weeks and altering the schedule for Easter break.

The report highlights the implementation of a two-week autumn half-term break and the consolidation of staff training days into a single week by various school trusts and local authorities in England instead of being distributed throughout the year.

The Unity Schools Partnership, a group of academies, reported that their trial of a longer mid-term break last fall resulted in a significant decrease in absences for both students and teachers. However, a few parents raised concerns about the change due to challenges with childcare.

A recent survey conducted by the Teacher Tapp app revealed that teachers have varying opinions on the ideal length of summer holidays. Of the participants, 33% supported maintaining the current six-week break, 35% advocated for a decrease to five weeks, and 29% preferred a reduction to four weeks.

Policymakers have continuously called for a revision of the academic year. In 2013, the former education secretary, Michael Gove, advocated for changes, stating: “We cannot continue with an outdated education system from the 19th century.”

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During Gove’s tenure, free schools and academies were granted increased autonomy to create their own schedules. However, those who implemented more unconventional timetables eventually abandoned them due to resistance from parents and the challenge of aligning term dates with other schools.

Geoff Barton, the leader of the Association of School and College Leaders, stated: “The suggestion of altering the duration of the summer break has been proposed for several years and naturally, there are varying opinions on the matter.”

Some evidence indicates that changes may have positive effects on students and their parents, but other studies have not reached a clear conclusion. It is crucial to thoroughly evaluate the impact of any changes and avoid making hasty decisions.

The report from the Nuffield Foundation highlights legitimate concerns, such as the increasing mental health problems and the unequal opportunities for underprivileged students. It is suggested that adjusting the school schedule may help improve these issues to a certain degree. However, it could also become a major distraction from more urgent matters, such as teacher recruitment and retention, support for special needs students, and funding for education.


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