PLANS to reduce summer holidays for schoolchildren across Wales to four weeks instead of six have been revealed.
The Welsh Government has today published a report by Beaufort Research into proposed changes to the academic school year.
The report came up with three options which were:
• A five-week summer break with three school terms of about 13 weeks, with a one-week break halfway and three weeks at Christmas
• A four-week summer break with five school terms of about seven or eight weeks. Three weeks holiday at Christmas and two weeks between the other terms
• A three-week summer break with terms lasting about six or seven weeks with fortnightly breaks in between
The report did concede however that people were ‘content’ with the current shape of the school year with six weeks of summer holidays, but said there was an openness to exploring alternative models.
The report sought opinions from a total of 13,016 people, including those from parents, carers, businesses, the general public, and from across the Welsh education workforce.
Seventy six per cent of parents and carers said they felt the current school year was ‘appropriate for people’s lives nowadays’.
This finding was echoed by 7-18-year-olds currently in education – 78 per cent agreed that the current structure of the school year was appropriate. The findings for those surveyed who work as part of the education workforce remained broadly uniform (78 per cent) in supporting the current timetable.
Those in favour of the current school year highlighted a range of perceived benefits, citing it ‘was a familiar system that worked and to which the sector, learners, parents and businesses had adapted and harmonised’. The fact that it aligned with the English school year was also highlighted as beneficial.
The research also revealed the general popularity, amongst learners in particular, of the six-week summer break. Personal wellbeing, being able to spend time with friends and no schoolwork pressures being some of the responses in explanation of this opinion.
In response to the report, Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said: “The Welsh Government would be better served in focusing on providing support to teachers and learners and helping schools deliver current reforms before embarking on any further changes to education. We urge the Education Minister to put plans to move to public consultation on hold until there is a clear evidence base on which to do so.”
Education Minister Jeremy Miles MS said: “It is clear from this report that, when discussed in detail, there is openness to looking at alternative ways of structuring the school year, particularly in terms of how we better support learners over the summer holidays and achieve greater consistency in the length of terms - particularly the current long autumn term - to better align with modern working and family patterns, and to tackle disadvantage and the attainment gap.
“I also recognise that whilst there is reasonable contentment with the current school year, after discussion and being shown different potential school year models, a majority of the education workforce and around half of learners opted for an alternative model.
“I believe that exploring options for change can enable us to support curriculum planning and delivery, tackle disadvantage and educational inequalities, and support learner and staff well-being. We now have an opportunity to explore these issues in the context of whether the current structure really is the best system to deliver on these shared priorities.”
A public consultation into the proposed changes is expected during the next academic year.
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