Headteachers, particularly in primary schools, express fears over lengthy summer breaks

Headteachers, particularly in primary schools, expressed fear that the lengthy summer break could cause children to forget what they have learned, disrupting the transition to the new academic year.

Some 70 per cent said they were counteracting the postholiday learning dip with voluntary summer reading schemes, while 27 per cent said they had moved pupils to next year’s class for the last two weeks of term to help prepare them for September. More than one in 10 secondary headteachers (11 per cent) said they had introduced compulsory summer programmes to help students who might otherwise have to be held back a year.

The findings, from a poll of more than 1,000 primary and secondary headteachers carried out by school support service The Key, come at the end of an academic year in which term times and holidays have been heavily debated. Former education secretary Michael Gove, removed from his post in a Cabinet reshuffle this week, suggested that schools cut the summer break to four weeks; from next year, all schools will be given the power to set their own term times.

The idea of shorter, more frequent breaks was also proposed at this year’s annual conference of the NAHT headteachers’ union, but it was voted down by members.

Although the poll findings suggest significant concerns, schools in England and Wales already have the joint-shortest summer holidays in Europe, along with Germany and Denmark. Countries such as Italy, Turkey and Estonia close for 13 weeks over the summer, similar to US schools, while high-performing Singapore shuts down for seven weeks.

Academic research supports the idea that longer holidays have a negative effect on children’s overall learning, with one US study concluding that two-thirds of the reading gap between rich and poor 13-year-olds could be attributed to the summer break…


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