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Head teachers' union to announce plans to reform school holidays and shorten summer break

The National Association of Head teachers believe shorter but more regular breaks could benefit both teachers and pupils

Head teachers from across the country are expected to announce plans to radically reform the structure of the British school holiday.

As part of their annual conference in Birmingham today, it is believed the National Association of Head Teachers will announce a plan to shorten the 6-week summer break and replace it with shorter but more frequent breaks throughout the school year.

The NAHT argue that more breaks could drastically reduce teacher exhaustion, improve the continuity of children’s learning and stop parents having to pay extortionately high holiday prices during school holidays.

Currently, schools in Britain have three week-long half terms, two two-week holidays at Easter and Christmas and one long six-week holiday over July and August.

However, the NAHT want this to change by bringing in a four-week summer break and add an extra week of holiday in October and February.

Russell Hobb, the Secretary of the NAHT, questioned whether the current structure was healthy for the staff that worked in schools.

He said: "It seems like at the end of term everybody is ready to drop. Not reducing the amount of holiday but distributing it more evenly throughout the year might be one solution to that."

He also said that the union were worried about “learning loss” in students over the six-week break, after studies in America showed that longer breaks can have a major impact on students being able to retain what they have learnt during the previous school year.

Hobb also believes that by following a more European model of staggering holidays in different parts of the country could help parents by drastically reducing the prices of holidays for families.

At the moment, trips taken during school holidays can be as much as four times more expensive than if the holidays taken during term time and Hobb feels the staggering of holidays could be the solution.

He said: "You could have a staggering of holidays around the country. I believe Germany do something similar. So if different parts of the country within local authority boundaries or regional boundaries had slightly different holiday times I think that would ease the pressure on prices of holidays."

Nevertheless, it has not been met with unanimous support and it is believed that some NAHT members will oppose the plan and are willing to strike to ensure they hold onto their entitlement of a six-week summer holiday.

The calls come after both the Minister for Education, Michael Gove, and head of Ofsted, Michael Wilshaw, have both said publicly that they would like to see changes to the school calendar.

Last year, Gove said the six-week break was archaic and had been “designed for a time when Britain ran an agricultural economy.”  

While Wilshaw said in December that the summer break was “far too long.”

Currently, it is only free schools and academies that can set their own hours and term times. However, this is hoping to be extended to those schools that come under the direction of local councils.

The proposal is part of a new education manifesto that the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) that could also see priority in admissions given to those on free school meals and a cap on teacher’s working hours.