Why the summer holidays are important for students and teachers
Well, it’s that time of year again. The summer holidays are upon us, and this means that the same old perennial questions will be asked again: Why are the summer holidays so long? Wouldn’t it be better if the summer break was shortened?
On the face of it, there appear to be several potential benefits of a shorter summer holiday for students, parents, and teachers.
Benefits of a shorter summer break
the summer learning gap is a factor that has been extensively researched. studies show – particularly in the transition from year 6 to year 7 (and between years 7 and 8) – that a learning gap does exist. students lose some of the skills and knowledge that they have developed during the previous academic year. the argument is that, with a shorter break, the gap would be reduced.
what’s more, with the disparity between the attainment of poorer, disadvantaged pupils and their better-off classmates remaining a stubborn problem, there is concern that the long summer break only widens the gap.
and then there are the practicalities of the summer break. family life was very different when the long summer break was first introduced all those years ago. most mums played the role of the traditional housewife – while the dads went out to work. this meant that the summer holidays weren’t logistically challenging at all – just a lot of hard work for the mums left at home trying to entertain the kids for six long weeks!
but with many – if not most – families now having two working parents, the issue of summer childcare can be a real challenge. a reduced summer break would certainly be less of a headache for working parents, that’s for sure.
Drawbacks of a shorter summer break
However, a shorter summer break would not be without drawbacks. The vast majority of teachers in primary and secondary schools are against the idea of a shorter summer holiday. This is mainly because by the end of the academic year most teachers are burned out and desperately in need of a chance to switch off and recharge their batteries.
The same could be said to be true of students too – especially for Year 6 students who have just faced the pressure of the SATs exams, and GCSE students who face intense pressure for the best part of two years.
The pace of modern school and family life is fast. The long summer holiday gives families the opportunity to spend quality time together. It also gives young people the chance to explore interests outside of school and develop their independence.
The bottom line is this…
In all honesty, the way the current school year is designed probably isn’t the best way to support student or staff wellbeing. It probably isn’t that well matched to modern family life – and it probably doesn’t do all it could to reduce inequality.
However, the alternatives to the long summer holidays would require a dramatic, root and branch overhaul of the entireschool system, the curriculum and the way students are assessed.
As there doesn’t seem much appetite for or likelihood of such a change, the long summer holiday looks set to stay.
Therefore, the summer holidays are a much-needed chance for students and teachers to relax and recharge; to slow down; and to look after their physical and mental health.
And that’s why the summer holidays are so important for students and teachers.