EDUCATION: Parents tear their hair out trying to fill the six week school holiday

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The school holidays are well under way and even though we are only into week two out of the six weeks assigned to the summer break, there are already some Sheffield mums and dads tearing their hair out.

The six weeks holiday is the stuff of dreams for kids at school in the dying days of the summer term. They look like an endless time of fun stretching off into the distance. The return to school in September is so far away, it’s merely a dot on the horizon. And there’s so much fun to be had between now and then.

It’s that word - fun - that can prove to be the biggest issue in the six weeks holidays. Kids today expect plenty of it. They require their schooling to be fun and for teachers to make learning enjoyable; the demand their parents to make holiday times even better.

The trouble is, it’s practically impossible. I mean, if I won the Lottery and had more cash than I could spend, entertaining my kids in the six week break would be a doddle. We’d be on holiday all the time, seeing the world, enjoying great food and paying to get into visitor attractions that cost the earth.

In reality, a one or two week holiday is what most people are looking at. Some will have taken their kids out of school at the end of term to access cheaper prices, so will have six weeks at home to face. Most people will have at least four weeks in Sheffield to fill. And it’s not easy - especially as any holiday budget may already have been blown.

Working parents who cannot book much time off face the added hassle of holiday time childcare or - sometimes worse - having to liaise with grandparents to help out. Some are incredibly supportive, others make sure they let you know how indebted you are.

Even the most mundane day trip can turn into an expensive one if food has to be bought and an ice cream treat provided. Paying to get in an attraction can make the cost astronomical. It simply cannot be sustained over six weeks.

So children have to learn to entertain themselves. When the familiar “mum, I’m bored” rings out in week four, they should be pointed in the direction of Christmas and birthday presents they’ve forgotten about or taken down to the local library to get an adventure to read, one they can’t put down.

But there’s an issue the government needs to look at that could prove beneficial to many of us - is the six weeks holiday too long?

The answer is that it probably is. Children oftdn return to school a little behind the level they were at when term broke up in July. A shorter period off school would lessen the impact on learning.

Having shorter holidays in the summer would also mean more holidays to be taken elsewhere in the year. Local Authoritues could choose when these are - maybe a second week at Easter and February - which would mean cheaper holidays available and a boost to the low-season tourist industry.

What really needs looking at is when the holidays take place. The system in Scotland is far more sensible as they break up earlier and go back earlier. Almost every year, this one included, they hit better weather and have less “dead time” after exams.

Changing the holiday times and duration is not an easy thing to do, though. Year 11s and Year 13s sitting exams need to get their papers marked and this process is getting harder for exam boards to do year on year due to recruitment issues.

The exam results need to be given back, then universities need to formalise their admissions. This all takes time and to shift the entire system would take a massive organisational effort.

That’s why it will never happen.

The six weeks holiday is here to stay, even though it frustrates many families. So it’s better to look upon it as an opportunity - for bonding within families, visiting libraries, playing games, spending a sensible amount of time on a games console, visiting parks, seeing grandparents, gardening, playing with friends and watching films.

Summer holiday memories that make a childhood so fantastic don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Many of the things our children will remember from their long, seemingly endless summer, are the experiences that are free of charge.