Teachers’ union voices strong opposition to Welsh Government plan to shorten school summer holidays
A teachers’ union has voiced its strong opposition to the Welsh Government’s proposal to shorten school summer holidays.
The Welsh Government has announced a consultation on changing the school year, aiming to spread out breaks more evenly, including a two-week autumn half-term.
Under the plans, a week would be taken from the start of the summer and added to the October break, although the overall number of holiday days would remain unchanged.
The changes would be implemented from September 2025, meaning schools would have a two-week break in October 2025 and a five-week summer break in 2026.
Ministers are also considering the option of moving a second week from the summer break and adding it to the Whitsun half-term in May.
Dr. Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT, criticised the government’s plan, stating that there is a lack of evidence indicating such changes would address fundamental problems in Welsh education.
He said: “There has already been an examination of this issue and it was not supported by the profession or the public. There is no evidence to indicate that such changes would address the fundamental problems affecting education in Wales. The Welsh government are flogging a dead horse.”
Neil Butler, NASUWT National Official for Wales, echoed these sentiments, saying: “Teachers in Wales will be concerned that once again, the Welsh government is attacking the school summer holiday – which is amongst the shortest in Europe.”
“They need the Welsh government to deal with the serious workload and learner behaviour issues in schools. The Welsh government seems to have totally lost their sense of direction in education.”
The Welsh Government’s proposal aims to reform the academic year by reducing the summer break from six to five weeks, starting September 2025, and reallocating the time to the October break.
Despite the union’s resistance, the proposal has found support among certain parent groups.
A survey by Parentkind revealed that 59% of lower-income families in Wales support the move.
The Child Action Poverty Group‘s report highlighted that families struggling with summer costs and childcare were more likely (72%) to favor a shorter summer holiday, compared to just 29% of families not facing these challenges.
In contrast, more affluent families who easily met summer holiday costs and didn’t require childcare were much more likely to oppose the idea.
The current six-week break causes ‘learning loss’, according to research, with pupils from poorer backgrounds and those with additional learning needs hardest hit.
Jeremy Miles argued the long summer break can put real strain on pupils and parents.
The education minister said: “Families struggle to find childcare over the six weeks and others struggle with the additional costs long summers bring.
“We also know our most disadvantaged learners suffer the most ‘learning loss’ from a long summer.
“There are plenty of examples of local authorities across the UK changing their school calendar to suit local needs.
“We want to make sure education works best for pupils, teachers, and families. We’re looking for people’s views on these changes and what it would mean for them.”
The changes to the school year are part of the cooperation agreement between Welsh ministers and Plaid Cymru.
Siân Gwenllian, for Plaid Cymru, said: “The current school calendar was designed a long time ago, under very different circumstances and we are suggesting changes that could work better for everyone, but most importantly for pupils of all ages.
“Many children and young people, especially those with additional learning needs and those from lower income families, find the break very long, impacting negatively on their wellbeing and education.
“These proposals address that while still allowing the same amount of holidays throughout the year, including a substantial summer holiday, whilst also providing a longer break during the autumn half-term.”
Under the plans, the two-week spring break would be fixed rather than move to coincide with Easter.
The Good Friday and Easter Monday public holidays would still apply, with teaching time made up elsewhere in the school calendar.
Other proposed changes include GCSE and A-level results days falling in the same week rather than a week apart.
Laura Anne Jones, the Conservatives’ shadow education minister, urged the Welsh Government to listen to parents and teachers before making a decision in spring.
The South Wales East MS also raised concerns about the potential impact on an “already struggling” tourism industry in Wales.
She said: “There are many issues with Labour’s plans to reform the school year, with the biggest impact potentially being felt by pupils, teachers and parents.
“Whilst we support reforming the school day, reform to both the day and the holiday cannot take place without compelling hard evidence on why it is needed and the positive difference it would make to pupils and teachers.
“This must not be based on perception or opinion.”
Readers can have their say on the proposals by responding to the Welsh Government consultation, which will be published at 2 pm today, Tuesday, November 21.
Reporting: Deeside.com and Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com