Surrey Homes | SH57 | July 2019 | Summer supplement inside

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Education

School’s out for summer

But what if the lengthy summer holiday ceased to exist? Hilary Wilce spells out the advantages

Quite soon schools will be closing down for

the holidays. Some boarding schools will

be quickly opening up again to reap useful

income from hosting residential music schools

or tennis camps or foreign language courses. Others will

be hosting day holiday clubs and activity camps, but far

too many school buildings up and down the country

will stay shuttered and locked until September.

Meanwhile, social splits will widen. Some lucky children

will enjoy a busy summer of friends, activities and holidays,

but many more will spend weeks in their bedrooms

staring at a screen, or will roam the streets with friends

trying to fill up the days. In the summer, a surprising

number of school-age children in the UK are less well fed

than they are during their term times of breakfast clubs

and school lunches. A great many, lacking stimulation,

forget much of what they learned in the previous school

year and start in September having dropped up to five

weeks behind in both knowledge and learning skills.

At the same time, parents will spend their summers

juggling holiday leave, paying out for holiday

programmes of dance, football or archery classes

that they can often ill afford, or turning to longsuffering

grandparents to help out with childcare.

None of this adds up, so it would make excellent sense

to keep schools open over the summer and offer free

holiday programmes of sports, creative and community

activities to all children who want to join in.

Of course it would cost money. Quite a lot of money.

Organisers and helpers would have to be employed, there’d

be significant management costs, and equipment and food

would need to be provided. But set that against all the other

costs that the summer holidays give rise to – more mental

and physical health problems among children, more street

violence, growing obesity, family struggles, workplace stress,

and widening inequality – and the balance sheet would

tip strongly in the direction of using our well-equipped

and expensive school facilities to the maximum. Plus, of

course, a national, and hopefully high-quality holiday

scheme, would be able to offer much more consistency

of care, and a much more balanced programme, than the

postcode lottery of holiday provision than we have now.

What this would take, though, would be

a profound revolution in thinking.

My own family had a personal crash course in this when we

moved to America and our children joined the local elementary

school. Almost immediately, they were casually cycling up to

school in the evenings and at weekends to pick up forgotten

homework, look things up in the library, or play on the sports

field or in the playground. To us, it seemed extraordinary.

To our suburban American neighbours it was completely

normal. It was the children’s school, it was open, there were

adults about – why shouldn’t pupils use it as their own?

So why can’t that happen here? Why can’t schools

be safe havens and exciting learning spaces in the

summer, just as they are in term-time? There are lots

of practical and financial reasons why not. But with

the desire to do right by all our children, and the will

to make it happen, those could be countered.

Or we could have something completely different and

scrap the long summer holiday altogether. Children are

no longer needed to help with the harvest, which is why

the holiday was created in the first place. Modern life

hurtles along without pause through the months of July

and August, and it could well suit almost everyone to

have more school terms and shorter holidays. For me,

this would be the ultimate sensible solution, and would

solve the great summer holiday problem at a stroke.

113 surrey-homes.co.uk

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