Call to bring forward school summer holidays in Wales for August re-start
The Welsh Government has been urged to consider bringing forward the summer holidays which would see pupils and staff return to school in August rather than September.
An announcement on the re-opening of schools is expected this week, having been closed to the vast majority of pupils since March 20, with local authorities being told that at least three weeks notice will be provided,
But despite the scheduled summer holidays set to start in mid July, leaving only approximately three weeks of lessons at most, the National Education Union (NEU) Cymru claims that plans for the six week break to be brought forward a month had been abandoned.
Union secretary David Evans, in a Facebook post, said that such a move would result in a 20-week term in the autumn with just a one-week break in the middle for the teachers, adding that this would mean breaking summer arrangements and resulting “contractual issues,” describing such plans as a “non-starter.”
But Arfon MS Sian Gwenllian says that bringing this year’s summer holidays forward should continue to be “fully explored,” suggesting a phased and gradual re-opening of schools in August rather than September, but only if it was safe to do so.
Plaid Cymru’s education spokesperson claims there could be “educational advantages” in bringing forward the start of the autumn term.
This, she added, could further pave the way for permanent changes and a re-configuring of the traditional three term year in a way that would be “less disjointed and more in tune with modern-day needs.”
“The educational advantages of bringing this year’s summer holidays forward and beginning the autumn term in August should continue to be fully explored,” she said.
“Before the Coronavirus crisis there were on-going discussions about school term lengths and the need to change from three to four school terms and making the summer holidays shorter.
“With need to re-visit those discussions in the wake of Coronavirus and now may be the time to consider changing school terms permanently and to reconfigure the annual school pattern.”
She added that the current practice of “intense half terms” followed by a short holiday has caused both teachers and pupils to become tired, claiming that many teachers say that the summer term is “too long” – especially for children who are not supported with their learning at home.
She concluded, “At the moment in Wales, terms are of different lengths with holidays coming irregularly and yet research shows that continuity and progression are important elements of learning.
“Many teachers say that the summer term is too long, with the first few weeks of the autumn term being used for catch-up, especially for children who are not supported with their learning at home.
“In the meantime, we must crucially continue to refine remote learning. This should be central to the plans for the gradual re-opening of schools. It should also be integral to future planning too as we continue to strive to close the digital/poverty divide and the attainment gap.
“The focus of our education system must be on engaging with every pupil and ensuring no child is left behind.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Welsh Government is working closely with unions, local authorities, scientists and education staff to decide on the next steps for education in Wales and the Minister intends to update further this week”
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