Thursday, July 28, 2011

Are the school summer holidays too long?

At this time of year you cannot go long without hearing some airhead presenter asking if the school summer holidays too long. After all, they will tell you, these long holidays came into being only because children were needed to help with the harvest.

Which is nonsense, of course. The harvest starts just as the schools are going back for the start of a new academic year.

And the summer holidays are not too long. The current opposition to long school holidays reveals two unlovely but widely held assumptions. They are that parents do not much enjoy their children's company and that, left to their own devices, children will be incapable of finding something constructive to do.

These arguments were rehearsed in the Observer last Sunday. Barbara Ellen took the part of the kooky woman columnist:
I would always have argued that school holidays are too long. For parents, that is. A case of: "My child, I would fight a lion for you, but if you ask me to play another game of Connect 4, I may have to suffocate myself with Moon Sand."
Apparently she is not paid as much as Private Eye's Polly Filler, so has no useless Ukrainian au pair.

The side of the angels was taken by Francis Gilbert, who also countered the strongest arguments for shorter holidays - that children from less-stimulating homes can regress over the course of them.
In some boroughs, such as Tower Hamlets, where I live, the poorest children's academic performance has actually significantly improved in recent years for a number of reasons, one of which has been the improved provision that the borough has provided during the summer holidays.

Activities such as tennis, canoeing, trips away and film-making are all now offered free of charge during this time. The point is that the activities are voluntary.
The call for shorter school holidays was last around in the early days of New Labour, though it was often hard to tell if it was part of its educational agenda or its public order agenda. I do hope Michael Gove is not going to prove similarly authoritarian.

1 comment:

dreamingspire said...

Going into the City Centre at midday on Wednesday to the Farmer's Market, I found the whole of the central area surprisingly full of people - but very few children. So were the extras made up of teachers, dinner ladies, school secretaries, and all the others involved in the machinery of the school industry, freed up once the schools were out?