‘Tis a sad day my friends, a sad day indeed. For that wonderful joyous time we have all come to know as the hallowed 6 week summer holiday, will be coming to a rather unfortunate end for children across the country. Well, perhaps not entirely, but a new piece of legislation passed last week by Michael Gove, Education Secretary, gives schools the precedent to set their own length of holidays over the summer months. He has also allowed schools to increase mandatory time spent at school to up to 4.30pm.
So what does this mean for future students? Well at first, what really caught my attention was the abolishing of summer holidays as we have come to know and love them. I suppose a strong sense of nostalgia instinctively made me despise the notion. “How dare they take these poor children’s unalienable right to do shit all for 6 weeks?” I vexed. “How could they take that precious jewel of childhood from their unsuspecting, probably sticky, little hands?” I cried in a burst of unbridled rage, and proceeded to throw my half eaten jam donut at the television screen.
Alas, perhaps I may have over reacted in hindsight.
Looking back objectively of course, was it really necessary for me to have a 6 week break? Is it necessary to have this privilege enshrined in yet another menial law? Perhaps not, but I cannot help but feel future children up and down this country are being robbed of something as sacred as their long and lustrous summer holiday. I’m sure many teachers are just as annoyed by the passing legislation. I would suspect that for quite a few of these educators, the promise of long holidays and short working hours may have enticed them into a career in education in the first place.
But all these reasons are beside’s the point, for they all pertain to some nostalgic ideal. That is, because something has been this way for all this time, it cannot possibly be wrong. Many people argued against the abolishment of the slave trade out of a similar feeling. But I concede this may be an unwarranted comparison. The moral implications of slavery I would argue far outweigh that of the case at hand. What are the more reasonable reasons to reinstate the sacred 6 week summer holiday? Or likewise, what are the reasons we ought to allow schools to set their own timetables?
Firstly we must contend this notion that teachers and students alike are lazy and inept. Darren Preece, deputy head at Swindon Village Primary School, said that the idea that teachers spend six weeks sunning themselves was ludicrous. But he concedes, that:
With such a crammed curriculum, I can understand why the working day may need to be longer.
Yet Mr Preece argues this new legislation could cause more harm than good, suggesting that shorter holidays will lead to greater absences during normal term time. He also argues that teachers spend a great deal of time preparing during these summer weeks for the new academic year.(1)
If there was less time in the summer to prepare, that won’t go down well with teachers.
Gemma Bowes reports for The Guardian, that travel industry experts have been dismayed by the Gove’s announcement.
Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, said: “If the government wants to hurt hard-working, striving families, this is the best way, as holidays in the UK and overseas would become far more expensive in peak periods.”
However, does it not make sense that every school ought to be able to teach their students how they see fit? I think stifling a school’s ability to cater to the needs of students, parents and teachers alike is a very bad thing for everyone. Yes, while I feel the holidays are important to a child’s development, it is not for me to forcibly impose my beliefs of child rearing, education nor how to run a school upon anyone else.
“It is heads and teachers who know their parents and pupils best, not local authorities. So it is right that all schools are free to set their own term dates in the interests of parents and pupils,” a spokesman for the Department for Education said. (2)
Hence, I can only argue the merit for my case, and hope others adopt this manner of thinking. I am a firm believer in deregulation in such cases, for we cannot impose such a strict set of binding rules when it comes to raising and educating children, who come in such marvellous variety. I think what is good about this legislation, is that it provides schools with greater power to tailor their education to their students and teachers needs. But I sincerely hope that they use these new powers within reason, for all work and no play, makes Jack a very dull boy indeed.
The change is due to take place from September 2015, affecting the 70% of state primary schools and 30% of state secondaries still under local authority control. To find out if you or your children will be affected, contact your school or the Department for Education for more information.