School summer holidays could be cut to four weeks in Wales as part of proposed shake-up

School summer holidays in Wales could be cut to four weeks as part of a Welsh Government school year shake-up.

School summer holidays in Wales could be cut to four weeks as part of a Welsh Government school year shake-up.

A Welsh Government commissioned report has suggested a decrease in the length of school summer holidays could better support staff and pupil wellbeing and bring the school year "more into line with modern and future patterns of family life and employment."

13,000 stakeholders, individuals and organisations took part in the research

The research found that pupils and businesses were more likely to design a year very similar to the current school year because they were largely happy with the status quo, but parents and stakeholders tended to suggest a four-week summer break.

The three alternative models suggested were:

  • A five week summer break. Three school terms of about 13 weeks. Each term would have a one-week break halfway through and the autumn term would be shorter than the current one with three weeks at Christmas.

  • A four week summer break, with three weeks at Christmas. There would be five school terms of about seven to eight weeks with two-week breaks in October, February / March and May.

  • A three week summer break. There would be six school terms lasting about six to seven weeks and all other school holidays would be two weeks long.

One of the reasons behind exploring a shorter summer break is that children were thought to experience learning loss, especially those from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds and those at Welsh medium schools from non-Welsh speaking homes.

The long summer break was also sometimes challenging from a parenting perspective, forexample organising and paying for childcare and having to take a family holiday at the mostexpensive time of year.

Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education has made it clear that no decision has been made and there will be no changes to the overall number of holidays throughout the school year.

He 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.

"In line with our Programme for Government and Cooperation Agreement commitments, I have asked officials to develop options to bring forward a formal public consultation during the next academic year.

"Whilst I am clear there is no argument for changes to the overall number of holidays or for reducing the summer break to two or three weeks, I am pleased that the research published today demonstrates an openness to looking at the overall distribution of holidays throughout the year with a greater consistency in term lengths.

"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.

"As such, over the coming weeks and months we will continue to gather evidence and engage with stakeholders, particularly learners and the education workforce, to ensure a collaborative approach to any new policy design. I will provide members with a further update in the autumn term."

Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education

But Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Education, Laura Anne Jones, said the Welsh Government showed "utter contempt" for the wider impact of such a potential change.

She said: “I genuinely cannot believe that at a time when children are not getting the educational support they need after so much disruption, in addition to our young people not getting the mental health and well-being support that they need in school, or even to get back into school, the Labour Government are choosing to prioritise this. It’s remarkable.

“The Labour Government also show utter contempt for the wider impact of such decisions, such as the detrimental effect shorter summer holidays could have our tourism industry here in Wales.”

Eithne Hughes, from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said: “This research shows broad satisfaction with the current school year among parents, learners, the education workforce and business and no great appetite for reform. Responses to the three alternative models put forward suggest that perceived benefits are counterbalanced by perceived drawbacks.

“Given these findings it is difficult to see why the Minister for Education wants to push ahead with developing options to bring forward to a public consultation when there are many more pressing issues that need attention such as insufficiency of funding to our schools, teacher shortages, education recovery following the pandemic, and the launch of a new curriculum.

“It is virtually impossible to arrive at a new model for the school year with which everybody will agree and which avoids disruption to the lives of families and the education workforce. There would need to be very clear educational benefits to justify such a huge upheaval and so much time and energy, and it is imperative that detailed evidence is provided along with any proposals.”