Back to school this week, but should summer holiday be shorter?

Most schools open for the year this week (some not until next week). A six week or so break for primary schools has been in place for as long as I can remember. Is it fine left as it is, or would a shorter summer holiday make more sense?

NZ Herald:  National MP Nicola Willis wants to chop up to two weeks off schools’ summer holiday

The summer school holidays would be shortened by up to two weeks under a proposal by a National Party list MP.

Nicola Willis, who argues the case for a shorter break in an opinion piece in today’s Herald, said she intends to write a private member’s bill to implement the idea.

To try to implement it. Most members’ bills don’t get drawn from the ballot, and a National MP bill when in Opposition, opposed by teachers, would be unlikely to get far in Parliament.

“I think it’s time to talk about whether a six-week holiday makes sense in 2019”.

“Should the summer break be shortened to five or even four weeks?”

Willis said the reality was that most parents worked, had four weeks’ annual leave and obtaining childcare during holidays could pose problems.

“The modern family is juggling childcare and work and the school holidays turn the pressure and costs up a notch.”

“Making the summer break just one week shorter could really help.”

It could be a relief to some parents to get their kids off their hands and back to school sooner.

Most important, Willis said, was that the long summer holiday could harm children’s academic achievement.

Really? I would like to see some research on this, if there is any.

“Kids’ literacy abilities can decline over the six-week break, with one study showing students lowing months of progress over summer. Much of term one can be spent getting kids back to where they left off the following year.”

Willis said teachers worked hard and deserved good holidays. They also needed non-contact time for preparation.

“At the moment, teachers can be required by school boards to attend school for up to 10 days during the 12 weeks of school holidays. What if a portion of those requirements were classroom-focused instead.”

I’m sure that quite a few principles and teachers will have an opinion on this. One of them:

John Marwick, principal of Forrest Hill School on Auckland’s North Shore, said adding a week or two at the start of the school year could cause problems with longer terms.

“That would be very difficult for 5- and 6-year-olds to stay focused for that amount of time.”

I think it’s common for younger children at least to become worn out getting towards the end of the school year.

Same for teachers. Cutting back their summer holiday is likely to be resisted.

Teachers’ union NZEI objected to Willis’ plan.

National secretary Paul Goulter said he was disappointed the sector hadn’t been consulted over the proposed changes.

There’s probably plenty of time for that, unless the bill gets drawn from the ballot quickly. It would be at least as important for parents to be consulted on this too. And what about the kids? Perhaps they should have a say.

“Unfortunately she seems to ignore the reality which is that teachers, because of the pressures that are on them, actually need these breaks. Lots of the time these breaks are taken up catching up with work they have been forced to hold over because of the staffing crisis in schools … they don’t have time to do this work during the school year.”

Teachers’ unions tend to oppose a lot of what National proposes regarding education and work conditions.

I have no idea whether this is a good proposal or not. I’d like to see aa lot more information backing it up, or opposing it.

The ‘opinion’ launch of the bill – Nicola Willis: Shorter school holidays could work for parents, kids and schools

Are you over the school holidays yet? Many families are now entering the sixth week of an extended stint of juggling work and full time childcare, and for some, it’s getting tough.

I think it’s time to talk about whether a six-week school holiday makes sense in 2019. Should the summer break be shortened to five or even four weeks? This year I’ll be working on a Private Member’s Bill to get the conversation started.

 In 2019 most parents work. There is no Mary Poppins. The modern family is juggling childcare and work and the school holidays turn the pressure and costs up a notch. It’s not all nature-play and home-crafts. Making the summer break just one week shorter could really help.

Let me be upfront, my husband and I have four children aged 8, 7, 5 and 3, we both work and we’ve done the January childcare juggle for years.

Willis got into Parliament via the National list less than a year ago, following the resignations of Bill English and Steven Joyce in March 2018.

I wonder if she has considered a shorter summer holiday for MPs?

Willis appears to have been doing some work during her break from Parliament, but this looks more like an attention seeker rather than a realistic proposition.

 

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21 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  28th January 2019

    It is worth remembering that senior high school pupils virtually finnish school in early November thanks to exams, while junior pupils don’t do much learning in December (swimming, end of year performance etc).
    On the other hand in the northern hemisphere they seem to take two or three months off and the education system still works.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  28th January 2019

      Or does it ? Their degrees seem to be an extension of school in many cases.

      Reply
  2. artcroft

     /  28th January 2019

    We are already short 800 teachers and importing Russians apparently to fill in the gaps. To ensure these foreign teachers can qualify in NZ the English language test requirements were reduced. Now National wants to add to shortage by reducing teachers working conditions. What compensation did she suggest be offered to teachers. None I imagine. I can see a new National slogan now. #teaching: not worth it.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  28th January 2019

      Try and compare teachers salary with other jobs when annual holidays including between terms) are excluded ( ie $ per day) and hear the loud screams. Then for primary teachers include the shorter working day !
      …duck…incoming

      Reply
      • Mother

         /  28th January 2019

        Long summer holidays adversely affecting children’s academic achievements? Rubbish.

        There are several issues with society and families with real claim, to making children’s learning difficult, than the length of their holidays!

        This is a silly proposal from National. Seems like a distraction ploy to me and it’s typical. I am sick of ‘hatred toward families’ being dressed up as condescending interfering ‘compassion.’

        Reply
      • Mother

         /  28th January 2019

        You don’t need to duck Duker. The teachers will already be back at school making preparation. I’ll say it for them though – they don’t have short working days. Most have very long days. I feel sorry for young teachers especially. It seems to me they are largely bamboozled and perturbed. This is a real issue National should look at.

        Teachers’ long holidays is a perennial gripe/swipe. This should be looked at too. We can’t have people receiving pay for nothing can we? Their pay (and nurses) should be upped anyway. Lack of honour and acknowledgment of teachers worth is one of our longsuffered symptoms of hatred toward family.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  28th January 2019

          I know some primary teachers …its not long days for experienced teachers.
          Sure some put everything into it …but they burn out

          Reply
        • Duker

           /  28th January 2019

          Its not a gripe about the long holidays.
          It just needs to be factored in when comparing other jobs that dont have them.
          Now days it seems a starting salary in the low $40-k with guaranteed promotion steps to well above that ( almost unheard of in other jobs) is seen as derisory by some new teachers.
          yes its hard to do an single woman inner city auckland lifestyle on $45k per year , even for 1 year.
          Ohhh woe

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  28th January 2019

            Teachers by and large are on a good wicket compared to many other people who work longer and harder for less, with much fewer holidays.

            My personal opinion is that the way the school system operates nowadays with the lack of respect and sometimes even lack of safety for teachers, and with many of them being expected to effectively act as counsellors and semi-parents, those are more likely to be factors that stop people wanting to be teachers.

            Especially men.

            Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  28th January 2019

    Might be an increase in the youth vote in Nicola’s electorate in 2020? 16 and 17 year olds voting or anybody other than the grinch who tried to steal their holidays? 😐

    Reply
  4. Vivienne May Ball

     /  28th January 2019

    This would force all families to send their children back to school earlier. Many families enjoy the time together. Also some people have their annual holidays later in January and if their children were back at school they would be hindered. Children need time away from formal learning to play, relax and have time with their famlies. There are many different ways to learn. This would be a negative step. For those who are struggling to care for their children other options such as flexible working hours, or school holiday programmes would be better.

    Reply
  5. duperez

     /  28th January 2019

    Nicola Willis trying to come across as earnest as she can doesn’t cover the fact that the issues around the subject haven’t changed in years.

    Which suggests that either Willis has come up with some blindingly original notion past the intellect and awareness of those before her arrival at the start of April 2018, or she’s grandstanding.

    Reply
  6. Scott

     /  28th January 2019

    As the sector looks to stop the he flood of teachers out of the profession, attitudes like this with obviously little or no thought regarding the current situation proves how ridiculous this would be. Why cant we have some productive and proactive thinking toward our education system and make it more attractive to teach in this country?

    Reply
    • Mother

       /  28th January 2019

      Teaching would be an attractive profession if the students were self disciplined, critical thinkers and respectful. These lessons are learnt in the home.

      We now have had several decades of new teachers who struggle to make it work. Alas, they probably were not brought up as critical thinkers themselves.

      Now we have an MP proposing a very strange concept. So many other things are broken in our education system. Why is she grasping at straws? She could use her employment to really study the history of education, get around talking with the teachers, compare a wide range of school practises, learn about other country’ systems, tackle the ever evolving curriculum issues…

      The modern family first and foremost needs security in every way.

      It would be wise for teachers to be required to use their out of classroom weeks for personal development, professional development, mentoring and team building activities.

      There is continually a huge waste of resources, both human and monetary, in the education system. We need to return power and respect to the family unit. Then we will have something to look forward to – great new teachers and critically thoughtful politicians in a decade’s time.

      Reply
  7. PartisanZ

     /  28th January 2019

    The compulsory school year should be as short as it possibly can …

    Alternatively, schools should be ‘Community Education Centres’ which are open more-or-less all the time for people to voluntarily learn in …

    The staff of these centres – some qualified ‘teachers’ – will also assist the many more people who will inevitably choose Home Schooling.

    Reply
    • Mother

       /  29th January 2019

      That’s an awesome concept. I like that very much PZ.

      Reply
      • Mother

         /  29th January 2019

        PZ, you expressed there a concept I began to think about several years ago.

        Reply
      • PartisanZ

         /  29th January 2019

        The ‘atomization’, insularilty and isolation of schooling is evidenced each school holidays by our local school – which has a fence around it like a gulag – with all its amazing resources – shut down apart from the pool in Summer, which community members have to organize staying open and obtain funding to pay for …

        How can we straight-faced say things like “It takes a village” when we do everything we can to negate the very idea of ‘village’, let alone its manifestation?

        Reply
  8. Jeff

     /  3rd February 2019

    Shortening the holidays is straight up dogging the boys

    Reply

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