Leading article: Time to cut back on over-long school holidays

The days when all hands – even little ones – were required for the summer harvest are long gone. And yet the tradition of a six-week summer holiday lingers, not least in the minds of local authority bureaucrats, the majority of whom have decided to take no action on Education Secretary Michael Gove's suggestion that the holiday should be cut to four weeks.

They are wrong. All the academic evidence suggests that long holidays are bad for children, and bad for poorer children, particularly those from ethnic minorities.

Put simply, school compensates for disadvantages at home. So while children with difficult backgrounds may keep up with their more privileged peers in term time, their reading age stalls over the summer. Teachers spend the first weeks in September recovering lost ground. Free schools and academies show signs of understanding this. It is time state schools did, too.