Parents in Wales have voted to shorten summer holidays by a week, leaving pupils in England worried about if their own holiday break will be cut.
Welsh ministers are proposing to change to school calendar so that the holidays are spread out more equally across the year.
The Labour-led administration has launched a consultation on the proposed changes, which could see the summer break cut to as little as three weeks.
A poll by charity Parentkind revealed that the majority of parents in the country support a move to spread the holidays more evenly throughout the year, with 56 per cent in favour.
Although these reforms are currently only being discussed for Wales, a consultation in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, found 73 per cent of parents who took part in a public consultation also want to see the summer break shortened as it’s ‘too long’.
A small number of individual academy schools in England, as well as some local councils in England, have already opted for shorter summer holidays and longer half terms.
But this proposal is being resisted by some teachers, with the union NASUWT saying there is ‘no sustainable educational argument’ for the change.
Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said that the Welsh Government would press ahead with a consultation
A survey by Parentkind found that 59 per cent of those living on a lower income support it
The controversial plans to change the school year is one of the Welsh Government’s commitments in its education manifesto.
In a survey published last year, the government put forward three possible options for changing the dates of the holidays.
- Shortening the autumn break and giving pupils a five week summer holiday
- Having five school terms of seven or eight weeks, with a four week summer holiday (and longer Christmas breaks to compensate)
- Six school terms of six or seven weeks, with each school holiday lasting two weeks, and a three week summer break
The potential reforms are being discussed because parents are struggling to find childcare in the break and children with additional learning needs find it difficult to return after a long break, the government said.
It argues that the current calendar of three school terms was designed 150 years ago in a different era when children were needed to help with agricultural work in the summer.
A survey by Parentkind found that 59 per cent of those living on a lower income support the move in Wales, and these results were echoed in a Scottish consultation of 9,000 parents.
Families that reported struggling with costs and childcare over the summer holidays were much more likely (72 per cent) to be in favour of a more even school year including a shorter summer holiday.
According to a report by the Child Action Poverty Group, this compared to just 29 per cent of families being in favour if they did not face these challenges.
The report also found more affluent families who said they easily met summer holiday costs and didn’t need childcare were which more likely to oppose the idea.
One parent said in the report: ‘[I have a] child with severe autism in special school.
‘Consider shortening summer break now that respite provision is so scare. Summer causes tremendous problems for children who rely on the routine and support of schools.’
In total, 39 per cent want to see extended holidays at Christmas and in February instead, with 36 per cent calling for a longer October half-term.
Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said the traditional six-week summer holiday will continue until at least 2024.
Mr Miles said the six-week summer break ‘can be a real strain’ on parents.
He said: ‘Families struggle to find childcare over the six weeks, and others struggle with the additional costs long summers bring.
Jeremy Miles said the traditional six-week summer holiday will continue until at least 2024
Pictured: The exterior of the Senedd in Cardiff, Wales
Commenting online, one parent wrote: ‘I look forward to the summer holidays, I love having my children home. Let the children keep their holidays’
‘We also know our most disadvantaged learners suffer the most ‘learning loss’ from a long summer.
‘We want to make sure education works best for pupils, teachers, and families.’
Jason Elsom, chief executive of parenting charity Parentkind, said he was pleased to see the consultation by the Welsh Government.
‘Our recent poll of 6,800 parents in Wales revealed that the majority of parents support a move to spread school holidays more evenly across the year, with 72 per cent of lower-income families in favour.
‘It is fair to say that the current concentration of school holidays in the summer months results in inflated childcare and family holiday costs, compounding the challenges faced during the cost-of-living crisis.’
Speaking to the BBC, Faisal Abbasi, whose child attends school in Cardiff, said: ‘I think they should leave it the same, because everybody’s used to the schedules.
‘People are working, they’ve got holidays pre-booked and things like that.
Commenting online, one parent wrote: ‘I look forward to the summer holidays, I love having my children home. Let the children keep their holidays.’
Another said: ‘Good idea. Six weeks is too long – an extra week in October half-term is a great idea.’
But not all were in favour, with another parents adding: ‘It’s not a case of people not wanting to spend time with their kids, some people work full time and can’t have the six weeks off with their children.
‘I’m one of those families where me and my husband aren’t teachers, so regardless of how many holidays we save, we can’t spend the entire six weeks with our children.’
Posting on X, one person wrote: I get the possible benefits for pupils and teachers.
‘However, those six weeks are a time for site staff to deep clean, decorate, repair, get in bulk deliveries and all the other maintenance stuff that can’t happen while school is working.’
Laura Doel from the National Association of Headteachers Cymru told MailOnline: ‘We are bewildered as to why this consultation is taking place.
‘No evidence has yet been presented that changing the school year would have any educational benefit for learners. And the previous consultation on this subject showed there was no real appetite for change, from parents, educators, businesses or the general public.
‘So why is this continuing to be pushed as a priority right now?
‘NAHT Cymru firmly believes that the basis of any reform should ensure the best provision and outcomes for learners.
‘In fact, the little evidence available on school holidays shows that countries with much longer summer breaks than Wales have higher levels of attainment and suffer no significant loss of learning.
‘With so much going on in schools right now, with a new curriculum, ALN reform, and severe recruitment and retention and funding crises, this just isn’t a priority for schools.
‘Welsh Government would be better served in focusing on providing support to teachers and learners, and helping schools deliver current reforms, before embarking on any further changes to education.
‘When school staff are being made redundant to balance the books, when schools should be prioritising delivering quality education to learners, and when we are deeply concerned about the recruitment and retention crisis, this should not be a priority for government.
‘Additionally, we are concerned to see the inclusion of an implementation date in this consultation – it seems to beg the question whether this is a true consultation, or has the government made up its mind already?’
A decision will be made in spring and the proposed changes would take effect in the 2025-26 school year.
Overall the number of school holidays across the year will not change.