This morning Onward publishes a new research note, The Case for reducing school holidays, by Jonathan Gullis MP. The report calls for ministers to cut school holidays by two weeks to help poor pupils catch up on lost learning from pandemic.
Following the recent outcry over supplying free school meals through holidays, Jonathan Gullis, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, argues that Ministers should seek a long term solution to the problem of child poverty and educational disadvantage. He proposes that the Government should extend term time by a week either side of the summer break to help poorer families whose finances are stretched and attainment is stunted during time away from the classroom.
This would help to alleviate the pressures of childcare, while also boosting pupil attainment among those furthest behind – a particular priority this academic year, when the attainment gap has widened considerably due to coronavirus. The report highlights the strain placed on less well off working families during the long holidays, including:
- The average cost of holiday childcare in the UK is £133 per week. Between 2003 and 2015, nursery costs increased by 77% while earnings have remained roughly the same.
- Evidence from charities suggests that food bank use accelerates significantly among families during the long summer holidays as they struggle to feed their children every day.
- The poorest children see their fitness levels fall 18 times faster than their richer counterparts during school breaks.
During lockdown, around 25% of pupils eligible for Free School Meals spent either no time or less than an hour on schooling, compared with 18% of those students not eligible for Free School Meals. The same survey also found that roughly 20% of Free School Meals pupils had no access to a computer at home, compared to 7% for other students.
The UK currently has shorter school holidays than many international comparators. Of the 36 countries listed in the OECD’s most recent Education at a glance report. nine have shorter school holidays than England or Scotland, including Denmark (10.6 weeks), Mexico (10 weeks), Germany (10 weeks), and Switzerland (9 weeks).
Jonathan Gullis MP, author of the report:
“One way in which we can help working families is to reduce long holidays, which costs families money and pupils classroom time that both can ill afford.
“As a teacher, I saw first hand the impact of long school holidays on disadvantaged pupils and their families. Moving to a shorter summer holiday would transform their prospects, which have been badly hurt by the pandemic.”
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