It is regularly suggested that the school summer break (usually of five-six weeks) is too long. Yet children need time to re-charge their batteries, play and spend time with their families.
In England local authorities generally set term dates for maintained schools. Academies and free schools can set their own term/holiday dates.
In Wales, responsibility for the setting of school holidays under the Education (Wales) Act 2014 lies with Local Authorities for community, voluntary controlled or community special school and with the governing body of a foundation or voluntary aided school. The Cabinet Secretary for Education can, however, exercise a power to direct both local authorities and governing bodies on school term and holiday dates to ensure harmonisation across Wales.
Schools in Britain have shorter summer holidays than many other countries. The summer break is eight weeks in Belgium, France and Norway; nine weeks in Canada; ten weeks in Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Poland and Sweden; 11 weeks in Iceland and 12 weeks in the USA.
The summer break in Finland is four weeks’ longer than that in England and Wales, yet the country’s education system is considered to be among the best in the world.
Behind Mexico the UK has the least number of public holidays of any nation in the world.
Private schools in the UK have longer summer holidays yet, there is no suggestion that this is disadvantageous for their pupils.
Some have argued that a six-week summer break is inconvenient for parents, but the solution is not longer time spent in school but better school holiday provision for children.
Compressing the summer break into four weeks, as some have suggested, would cause problems for millions of families scrambling to book holidays. There would be even higher prices at peak periods and a greater likelihood that parents would simply take their children out of school during term time.
Many families with relatives overseas use the summer break for an extended family visit. A shorter summer break would undoubtedly lead to additional requests for children to be taken out of school in term time.