Education · Family Life

Is Our Current School Calendar Working For You?

The end-of-term strops are upon us! My three primary school aged children, have now officially changed their names to Stroppy, Grumpy & Tired! Towards the end of term it’s always the same and I really can’t see what they can possibly be getting out of them at school, as it’s like refereeing a grudge match at home!

A typical episode goes something like this:

Stroppy has got the pre-teen sulky pout when Grumpy tells her ‘Your hair looks really messy at the back!’ I then assure Stroppy that it looks fine and there is no need to spend another 10 minutes re-doing it! At that moment, Tired pushes past and Stroppy yells, ‘He just ruined my hair, completely!’ Stroppy pushes Tired, Tired falls over and dissolves into (unnecessary) floods of tears. I shout at Stroppy, she complains that ‘I get the blame for everything around here’. Grumpy leaves the scene quietly, with a rye smile on her face, her work here is done.

Anyone else relate to this?!?
Anyone else relate to this?!?

Ordinarily, the summer term isn’t so bad but I guess the awful weather and lack of sunshine is taking its toll. Though the schools seem to resort to watching Disney films during the last week of the summer term, we are threatened with fines if we dare take our flagging children off on holiday, a few days early, in an attempt to save a few hundred pounds! There must be a better way, for everyone!

I heard in the news, a few weeks ago, a suggestion that the summer break was too long and that having more than four weeks off leads to ‘leaning loss’ or some such rubbish! I ranted and raved on about how children need to be children and how holidays are educational etc. etc. but then, on further investigation, realised that, as usual, the media had narrowed in on the sensationalising headline and left out the rest! What they were actually suggesting was that two weeks be taken off the summer break and given to individual schools to take as they please- genius! Not only would this change enable families to holiday at a cheaper rate, it would also give our kids some time off when they really need it.

An even braver solution would be to allow schools (or maybe councils- to allow for families with children at different schools) to choose all of their holidays and purposely stagger them. School holidays and term dates were set to suit our lifestyles a long time ago with when it was based on the agricultural calendar. The long summer holiday was given, for children to help bring in the crops or work the land. In the spring they were needed to help with sowing and planting and in autumn for harvesting. It’s time someone looked at it again and made some long overdue changes, to bring holidays into line with the way we live now and to best suit our children. I know this is a controversial issue but that is mainly due to the prospect of change. Whenever change happens, someone won’t like or agree with it, but that doesn’t mean we should be living in the dark ages!

Change is good, people!!

In my opinion, children struggle the most in the autumn term and many private schools and academies allow a two-week break in the October half term to reflect this, and they also finish earlier in December than state schools. I would therefore love to see similar holidays in the state system, even if that meant a shorter summer break. Let’s face it, four weeks is plenty of time to get a holiday in the sun and a few day trips in! I’m certainly flagging by the end of it and can’t wait to get the little darlings back to school. To be honest, they are usually desperate to see their friends and get away from me too!! 

As for the school day itself, there’s room for improvement here too. Once the kids are collected from school, we have a variety of clubs to get to, throughout the week. The majority of these extra curricular sessions involve physical activity but there are also tutoring sessions (costing us a small fortune), which are then followed by homework on our return home! The 9-3ish timetable was also based around a farmer’s day and designed so that children went home to help with the housework (fat chance of that without promise of extra funds or bribery!) back in the Victorian era. Now, this structure seems ridiculous with both parents working and not many jobs allowing a regular 2.30pm cut-off! I’m not suggesting that academic lessons should necessarily run until 5pm, but that the extra time created, be used for sport, physical activity, music or craft, the things that kids love to do but seem to do a lot less of, than when we were at school. Maybe during this time, children struggling in a particular subject could be helped, therefore reducing the amount of tutoring that seems to necessary these days. Maybe, children who have been recognised as having a particular talent in sport or the arts could be excused at this time to practice with their team or group.

To make changes like these would be expensive. We would need more teachers and they would need to work different hours, which I can’t see the unions allowing- but don’t get me started on unions, another design of it’s time that (in my opinion) has no place in modern society!

I’m not sure that anyone will be so bold as to implement changes of this magnitude, but I’ve heard whispers and shared frustrations enough, to hope that it is at least, being considered.

What are your thoughts on our current state-educational timetable? Do you think it needs an overhaul or are you happy to leave it as it is?

Diary of an imperfect mum

 

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32 thoughts on “Is Our Current School Calendar Working For You?

  1. I’m all for change when it comes to the “school calendar”. My sister and i both attended state schools but my two younger brothers attended “private school” which had a completely different school calendar and it was a nightmare for my mum to try and arrange holidays/days out for us all. There needs to be some sort of unison between them all, or like you say, the option for parents to choose their own holidays. xx

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  2. I’m new to all of this with Max not there yet but the thought of it sounds good. Being off at different times is such a great idea. Travel abroad is great for children! And six weeks IS a long time over summer xx

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  3. Evie’s not yet in school, but my mum is a teacher and I know she would completely agree with this. It does need to be a bit more staggered xx

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  4. Yeah I completely agree they need to be a bit more staggered. However, I live in Italy for 3 years where they had no half terms and 3 months off for summer holidays so when you look at that England isn’t that bad the kids were did an insane amount of extra curricular all summer!!

    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

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  5. A good post. I definitely agree and working full-time has meant we have made the decision to go ‘private’ because of an 8-6 standard day (no teaching after 3:30 but plenty of activities and ‘tea’). I’ve never understood why state is so rigid when the number of weeks teaching at a private school is far less and the pupils still manage! #puddinglove

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  6. As a teacher I have strong feelings about this and could write a whole post myself TBH. Some children do regress over the holidays particularly between group 2 and 3 research has shown that at this age there can be a 6 month regression. That is why good teachers are needed in group 3. The first term in my opinion is way too long! By Christmas almost half our school year was over. Getting to Christmas is a real slog!!! I agree that changes must be made. In Holland the holidays are staggered by region ( north south east west) so that the whole country is not free at the same time. Holidays are still expensive though! As for lengthening the school day, no way!!! Kids need free time to play and be kids not in school from 8 to 6. Sorry for the mega comment!

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    1. Don’t apologise, I appreciate your thoughts! I just think there should a longer school day to help with working parents and that extra time should involve activity not necessarily more lessons. I do however, feel that with large class sizes, teachers could spread themselves to give more individual attention and eliminate the need for homework, so when the kids do go home, they leave school work behind. xx

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    2. Ha ha – have just started to read everyone else’s comment after having written a REALLY MEGA comment that could actually be a post of my own…. Sorry too buzymum for writing such a massive response – must be the teacher in us!!

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      1. I love these mega-comments! Thank you for adding your perspective and reasons behind it. If you do write your own post on this topic, let me know and I’ll link over xx

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  7. I think it could do with an overhaul. I like the idea of a 4 week summer break and then the school decide on the other 2 weeks. The problem is that schools need to coordinate with each other: I have 4 kids at 3 different schools! An interesting post with lots of food for thought. Alison x #fartglitter

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  8. Amen to this!! You need to get this into parliament!! I couldn’t agree more. So we’ll written. Yes it may mean a lot more work to ensure the system runs smoothly and the teacher’s life doesn’t become more stressful but it really should have been addressed a long time ago. And as for unions, it destroyed my husband’s previous place of employment! #puddinglove

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  9. I think this is really interesting. My daughter has just finishing off her first year at school and I was expecting her to really struggle but she’s actually been fantastic. She’s not overly tired, still wants to learn after her busy day but she is worried about not seeing her friends as often over the summer. I’m not sure I agree with the longer school day, although she did this at nursery when I was working full time so I know she’d be okay with the hours. I do wish more after school happened though, but my school is pretty good and has breakfast club from 8 and school clubs until 4.30 each day from year 1 upwards. I think this does help with working parents, but then it’s extra money too. I think a longer school day would result in more funding needed for schools to be able to stay open or have more clubs associated with them.

    I think parents should be allowed a week or ten days to take their child out of school for holidays, family time etc or even allowing a school to stagger time throughout the year would be handy! #bigpinklink

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  10. I hear this!! Its a outdated old fashioned timetable that could do with a shake up! When I was working it was a nightmare (not to mention expensive) to sort after school childcare let alone before school childcare if it was needed too, and a logistical nightmare would have ensued had I still been working when the teen started secondary school.. so there is definitely loads of room for improvement there. We took the kids out for 2 days for a skiing trip at the beginning of the year, and I was warned we would get the fine (which in comparison to my savings was worth it) however, on return from the trip the teen came home with a letter for a skiing trip with school during school time??? how do they justify their skiing trip over mine? same trip, same learning but with family instead of the school.. I waffled on about “sending the school my own fine” to the husband – which of course I didn’t- but I was so confused to say the least! nothing with change though.. which is a shame! #pudding love

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  11. Or Parents could be given a shorter work day and still get paid the same. Just putting that out there. There is no need for us to work our tails off for little pay but that’s another issue entirely. I don’t actually like the idea of having kids in school during the summer. I’m normally all for change but not this one. Maybe it’s because I have very fond memories of summer camp and running around with my friends in the summer.
    We were free to do as we pleased as long as we were out of our parents’ hair. Of course, that was the 1980’s and things were a lot different so I get where you’re coming from. Back then, we could build forts in the woods and go fishing without needing any sort of permit. Not to mention just the mere excitement in the air when the end of the school year came to a close. I get to feel that all over again with my boys.
    I do think though that the entire education system needs a complete overhaul and that we should start thinking about how children learn, what the parents needs, and help the teachers have a more work/life balance.
    I know many teachers who would prefer to work all summer so that they don’t have to get a second job to pay the bills. Their salary only pays them during the school year but in the summer months, most of them have to find some other source of income. At least that’s how it is here in the states.
    I also hate how the schools don’t give appropriate time alloted for physical activity. My 9 year old only gets gym once a week and only 1-2 15 minute recesses a day. Apparently that’s a lot though but I don’t think so. Middle and high school is worse as they have gym for a couple of weeks during one semester. It’s ridiculous yet the government wonders why we have so many over weight kids. Hint: It’s not just to do with food.
    I don’t think that extending their school year into the summer is a good idea, no matter whether we take December off the table or not, especially with the schools in our poorer communities who aren’t equipped with air conditioning because the state refuses to fund a school solely based on test scores but that’s a whole other topic. Wow! I didn’t realized I had written so much. Maybe I should write my own post, LOL! I guess I have a lot more issues with our education system than I thought. Sorry for the long comment.
    On the other hand… I know here in my town, any extra curricular activities that I want my boys to be a part of I have to pay for out of pocket and they are way over priced! For parents who do work later hours, our town offers after school care with lots of fun activities but again, at a high price. Any summer camps I want to put my boys are also high priced so I can definitely see how adding these things in to the child’s every day schooling would relieve much of the financial burden on us parents. Again, sorry for the tangent. I guess I need to think about this some more:) Popping over from #fartglitter

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    1. Don’t apologise- I love that this has provoked such reaction! Great to have a view from the States and interesting to get your perspective. If you do write a post on this topic, let me know and I’ll link it in xx

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  12. Really interesting! My eldest started school in September when she had barely turned 4 and she totally struggled in the weeks up to Christmas. I can only imagine how having 6 weeks off in the summer may well put her off wanting to go back to school in September. I think a flexible system as you mention so schools could implement holidays as they like would work well and allow families to take holidays outside of peak ££££ time. But I’ve no idea whether the teachers would be up for this! #BigPinkLink

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  13. I’d be in favor of this plan. I also think they could start a little later in the morning. My 5 year old sleeps until 8 or 9 right now, but come fall I’m going to have to start getting her up at 6. That is going to take some adjustment that I’m not looking forward to #puddinglove

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  14. I’m lucky enough to work from home, but from day one of school I can see that it has been an utter nightmare for the working parents. Especially during the ‘phasing in’ period if the school does it. If you’re lucky enough to be in a community where you know people, it can be doable, but otherwise relying on grandparents seems to be the only option. Don’t get me started on illness too! Thanks for joining us at the #bigpinklink

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  15. Oh my goodness the thought of school terrifies me (my daughter is 2)! I work full time, as does my husband, with no family nearby so we are going to really struggle in the holidays childcare wise. It would be great if they mixed up the dates so that families could take holidays together at better (and cheaper) times of the year!x

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  16. I absolutely agree with you on all counts. I especially like the idea of a shorter break in the summer with a flexible two week break that the schools can offer during “term time” to allow familes the chance to maybe take a holiday that they would find to prohibitive during the expensive typical school holidays. Brilliant idea – or maybe even just cut the summer break down to 4 weeks and give each family a flexible “two week entitlement” that they can take at a time to suit them, just allowing for potential embargo times like exams etc. Who knows whether it will even happen but I agree that these things should be put under review.
    Thanks for linking with #fartglitter x

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  17. I totally agree some changes need to be made. Great idea to extend the day to 5pm – but fill the last bit with ‘fun’ activities. Would help out parents so much. The wrap around care is so expensive. As for the holidays – I like the idea of schools allocating two extra weeks when they want #PuddingLove

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  18. Extremely interesting and well researched points and lots that I can see merit in – 2 weeks at October always seems attractive to me and schools having more say over their own holiday calendar would be excellent although I can see, as you also point out, the issues of siblings meaning this could be problematic. I am also someone who is thinking 6 weeks off with 3 children is going to test us all so could see a shorter summer holiday working.

    I however, also come at this from a different angle and as a secondary school teacher can see some issues. Firstly, the whole exam results and UCAS (uni entry) process is so unwieldy at the moment the summer holidays are tied a little to this and GCSE exam results as anything else. I also agree we are all very tired at school right now and wish there wasn’t this awful situation with the costs of holidays etc but the kids are amazing at holding it together in the day and we’re actually doing some really good cross-curricular off-timetable days in the last week – it may just look like a load of ‘fun’ to parents but important softer skills are being developed (something our poor kids are lacking the opportunity to practise in the assessment driven environment we currently have) and yes I put on a DVD as much as the next teacher at the end of term but these are subject specific and ones that my students probably wouldn’t choose to watch in their own time – Hotel Rwanda, Made in Dagenham and yes Disney’s Robin Hood to discuss how King John had been portrayed in it! You will always have this at the end of terms – whenever you end them I think.

    Finally, teacher well-being – I (worryingly) had a fantastic colleague say to me last week in response to my query of ‘are you ok – you don’t look very well?’ with ‘I am just so tired and sadly I don’t think this is going to be fixed by 6 weeks off.’ You neglect this side of things in your post. Teachers and unions WOULD love schools to cater better for the needs of the children and parents in terms of after school etc (well actually just generally – we are very aware we are holding up an education system that may not be fit for purpose,) as you describe BUT this needs govt money and schools are facing 8% cuts in the next few years – this is why we DO needs unions to fight for your children’s future education, for teacher well-being and ensure the extra-curricular stuff you talk about goes ahead (no teacher would take trips/do clubs without the protection of a union’s legal team). Love that #foetheloveofBLOG makes me read blogs I may not normally gravitate towards and you may well have inspired me with my own blog post. Thank you.

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  19. Really interesting points. School is something I’ve always seen as rigid and unchanging, so revising the school calender is not something I ever really thought possible x

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