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The long and the short of school terms

Could anything be gained from changing the length of holidays?

Almost no aspect of education can be discussed without either politics or some special interest raising its head, and the length of school terms is no exception. Some parents and educationalists believe that long holidays give pupils much-needed space for recreation.

Others cite studies showing that children from disadvantaged backgrounds not only lose the habit of school, but forget much of what they learned the previous term. Then there are working parents who cannot afford to take so much time off, and – of course – teachers who, while insisting that their work extends in to the holidays, nonetheless defend their long break to the death.

The Government’s plan to allow all state schools in England to fix their own terms offers an answer of a kind. But only if there is local consistency so that families can go on holiday together and only if schools are rigorous in putting their pupils’ interests first.