A council in Yorkshire has become the first in England to reduce the length of the school summer holidays to less than five weeks.
Barnsley Council is introducing a two-week break in the October half-term to balance out the change, which it said would combat “learning loss” starting in the 2017-18 academic year.
Schools will not break up until 31 July 2018, while the rest of the country finishes almost a week earlier, and return as normal at the start of September.
The lengthened half-term break will run from 24 October to 4 November.
Councillor Tim Cheetham, the cabinet’s spokesperson for people (achieving potential), said: “The main differences to this year’s dates from previous years – the shorter summer break and a two-week break at October half-term – will support educational outcomes for pupils by reducing the long summer break which can lead to learning loss.
“It also means that holiday weeks are distributed more evenly throughout the school year.”
But the Barnsley Chronicle said secondary school leaders were “in revolt” about the decision, which sparked heated debate on its website.
Some commenters pointed out that it could allow families to go away for cheaper holidays in October, while others said the month was the wrong time of year for a longer break and would disrupt children’s “learning mindset”.
“Children need a long summer break to allow them to be children, to play, learn to get on with each other and have a bit of fun before they go back to school for their education,” one person wrote.
Barnsley Council said the decision followed consultation with neighbouring local authorities in South Yorkshire, headteachers, trade unions and teachers’ associations.
Nick Bowen, the head of Horizon Community College, said the council should reconsider and had not consulted sufficiently with schools, which he feared would struggle to recruit high-quality staff who rely on summer holidays to “recharge their batteries”.
“There is also the fact that most of the academies in the area probably won't come on board with it so everyone will have different holidays,” he told The Guardian.
“And it will be a disaster in terms of attendance because parents who have multiple children will have to take other siblings out of school if the holidays don't match.”
Governors of voluntary-aided schools and academies are responsible for determining their own dates.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies