Wales school summer holidays may be cut by a week

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School summer holidays in Wales will be cut by a week with the possibility of moving to a four-week break in future under new Welsh government plans.

The changes would see the week-long October half term break extended to a fortnight.

It is claimed the change would benefit disadvantaged pupils and boost the wellbeing of students and staff.

But a union said there was no evidence the changes would help children’s education.

A decision will be made in spring and if given the go-ahead, the proposed changes would take effect in the 2025-26 school year, with a five-week break starting later in July 2026.

The government said research suggested teachers and pupils found the long autumn term tiring and a two-week half term would give more of a rest.

Overall the number of school holidays across the year will not change.

Mother-of-two and teacher Katie said she was in two minds about changing school terms.

“When you’ve got a seven and eight-week term, that can be quite an onslaught,” she said, collecting her five-year-old from an after-school club in Caerphilly.

“I don’t find it so bad in the spring and the summer term but sometimes that winter term can be quite a slog.”

And while six weeks over the summer “is quite a long stretch”, as a teacher she said “we also need it, frankly, by the time we get to that point”.

Faisal Abbasi, whose child attends Lakeside Primary in Cardiff, said the government should focus on other matters.

“I think they should leave it the same. Everybody is used to the schedule and people who are working have holidays pre-booked,” he said.

Faisal Abbasi

“The government should be concentrating more on providing better facilities.”

Dylan is 14 and his mother is from Thailand – so a long holiday means he can spend the summer with family there without affecting his studies.

“The summer term is an opportunity for us to visit them and catch up with them,” he said.

“If you were to make it five weeks that would limit how much time you could spend there and because it’s another country we wouldn’t want to just go there for three or four days, and it would really limit our options.”

Lucy Purcell, headteacher at Caerleon Comprehensive, says looking at the school year is a “positive thing”.

“We’ve got a Made For Wales curriculum, why can’t we have a Wales For Wales school calendar,” she said.

“I think the long summer holiday is not good, particularly for disadvantaged young people, so I think it’s very positive to have a shorter summer holiday and a break in the autumn term.”

Education Minister Jeremy Miles said he was concerned about the impact of the long summer break on pupils’ learning when they get back to school.

But education unions have previously argued against the reforms, saying that there are “many more pressing issues” and questioning the appetite for change.

Laura Doel from the National Association of Headteachers Cymru said: “When school staff are being made redundant to balance the books, when schools should be prioritising delivering quality education to learners, and when we are deeply concerned about the recruitment and retention crisis, this should not be a priority for government.”

Some are also worried that a shorter summer holiday could damage teacher recruitment.

The Welsh government consultation will also ask for views on the summer holiday being reduced to four weeks in future, adding a week to the May half term to spread breaks out more evenly across the year.

Changing GCSE and A-level results days to the same week rather than dates a week apart in August is also being considered.

Mr Miles said: “Families struggle to find childcare over the six weeks, and others struggle with the additional costs long summers bring.

Jeremy Miles and pupil at Caerleon Comprehensive

“We also know our most disadvantaged learners suffer the most ‘learning loss’ from a long summer.”

The government also said it believes the changes would better fit in with modern life, reforming a school calendar which is broadly the same as in 1873.

The pledge to look at the pattern of the school year is part of the cooperation agreement between the Labour Welsh government and Plaid Cymru.

Laura Anne Jones, Welsh Conservatives’ education spokesperson, said: “There are many issues with Labour’s plans to reform the school year, with the biggest impact potentially being felt by pupils, teachers and parents. As well as an already struggling tourism sector.”

Other local authorities in England and Scotland already have two-week breaks in October including the Isle of Wight and Falkirk, while Chester has a five-week summer holiday and a fixed Easter.

Additional reporting by Gareth Bryer

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