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Children have fallen behind… the answer is shorter summer holidays?

shorter holidays

Back in summer term 2020, I read comments online from a handful of parents saying that schools should open during the summer holidays to allow children to ‘catch up’.

It bemused me then; it bemuses me now that politicians genuinely feel that this is a priority right now.

We are in the middle of a pandemic. Our children, on the whole, are receiving some sort of education. Of course, some are not accessing the home learning. However, in reality, there are always a proportion of pupils at risk of being NEET (young people who are not in education, employment or training).

And do you know what? Even if our children had absolutely no provision from schools right now (we are lucky that they do!), I am pretty sure I would have the exact same view as I do now. Our children are the priority, but their academic development is not and should never be. Ever.

A teacher just said that a child’s academic development should never be a priority?

Yes. That’s right. You heard me. I absolutely stand by this opinion. Let me explain.

As a parent, yes, I was proud that my daughters knew their sounds before they started school and could both read to some extent. However, the most crucial aspect of school life was their happiness.

My eldest settled immediately. Being an October baby, she was one of the oldest in the class. She was more than ready to start. My youngest was certainly academically prepared to begin school, but emotionally, she was a little more fragile. Being a June baby, she was a lot younger than most of her peers. My daughter found it tricky adjusting to things like the toilet – the nursery had a step, but her school didn’t. This filled her with fear. Of course, once I got to the crux of the upset with her, I spoke to her teacher, and the class team helped her deal with her anxiety. That’s all part of her development, isn’t it? Overcoming her worries about school was a far more remarkable feat for her than sitting on the carpet and learning her sounds for that week. 

shorter summer holidays

For both my girls, feeling settled, making friends and getting to know the school staff and routines were far more important to me than anything academic. 

Personally, I believe that the single greatest thing that my children have missed over the past year or so has been the opportunity to socialise with their friends, whether that be in school or out. Summer 2020 was restricted. This pandemic has impinged on their freedom and made them afraid of being too close to their friends. 

So, while these so-called leading experts in education (oh wow… they went to school, hey?) believe that shortening the summer holidays would be in the best interests of the children, I dispute that. Forcing them to continue working is going to make them resentful of education. Let’s hope that by summer, our children are able to experience the normality of playing in the park, building sandcastles on the beach and having friends over for playdates. 

By the end of a ‘normal’ summer term, everyone is flagging by week 6. The temperatures can sometimes make it hard to focus. By week 7 or even 8, any enthusiasm that remained would well and truly have vanished. 

I’d also like to challenge the assertion that ‘children are falling behind’. In what? Does that mean that our school-aged children are not meeting the expectations of the government in terms of the traditional three Rs? I’m guessing so. Perhaps, rather than focusing on the lost learning, think about the things they have gained from this experience: resilience, patience and self-motivation. I’m laughing as I’m writing that because most of the time, I don’t necessarily see these things. However, on reflection, these qualities have been present at many a time.

A few further points to consider…

  • Where would the money come to fund the extra hours that school staff would be working?
  • What about the extra money to cover the resources, energy bills and lunches (to name just a few things that schools would need to have)?
  • What would happen if people had already made plans for the weeks that might suddenly be ‘reclaimed’?
  • Can an extra two weeks of learning really make a difference?

I shall leave you with the ludicrous and quite frankly insulting suggestion that has been supposedly leaked to the press. Educators have been advised that they will be bumped up in the priority list for the vaccine if they agree to the extra two weeks. While it would be lovely to think that people realise the dangers associated with those working in close contact with large numbers of children and many bubbles, in reality, the fact that this is tinged with bribery is disgusting. It remains to be seen whether this is yet another divisive rumour or a genuine suggestion. Either way, it is certainly not an approach which will allow the government to win favour amongst the teaching community. 

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