How Long Should the Summer Vacation Be?
Just how long should the summer vacation be?
The children have only just gone back to school and it already feels as if summer is a distant continent. To me, it all seemed to pass by so fast, but in the UK there is a big debate going on about reducing the traditional summer break.
Politician Frank Field has advised the Government that having six weeks off has a particularly detrimental effect on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. They don't tend to do any reading or other forms of learning over this period, compared to the children of middle class backgrounds who are exposed to all manner of cultural activities.
He has a good point. I am sure that many children have gone backwards in their learning over the summer. But the gap between home and school culture is not just a problem during the summer.
Children from families where reading is not an everyday activity are at a disadvantage all year round. In many children's homes, there are virtually no books on display, apart from the telephone directory.
Children imitate their parents. If you read regularly, they will usually show an interest in books. But just how do you break a cycle of disinterest in or inability to read and stop educational disadvantage perpetuating itself down the generations?
Field's answer seems to be to ensure the gaps between school and home are as narrow as possible in order to strengthen the influence of school. Reducing the summer vacation might also be an advantage for working parents in that it is always a nightmare trying to find childcare for those long months.
But what is the right amount of time for a summer break? Do children, in fact, need a long break at the end of the year to mark the end of a particular stage in their development? Is there not something magical about having weeks to do nothing much but play in?Continued on the next page