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.