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Save our summers

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: May 05, 2014

By TINA ROWE

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Cutting the traditional six-week school summer break could be a massive blow for the West Country's holiday businesses, a regional tourism chief has warned.

The National Association of Headteachers is considering the cut to stop teacher exhaustion and "reduce holiday prices".

But Bob Smart, chairman of Somerset Tourism Association said spreading school holidays more evenly throughout the year would push up costs for tourism businesses, and leave them far less able to plan.

The union is considering the proposal as part of a new education manifesto it is drawing up ahead of next year's general election.

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said there has been much debate and evidence recently over whether children suffer "learning loss" over the long summer holiday, although much of this comes from the United States which operates a different system from England.

"One of the things I'm concerned about is whether the current structure of holidays is also healthy for the people who work in schools as well," he said.

"It seems like, at the end of term, everyone is ready to drop and that actually, not reducing the amount of holiday but distributing it more evenly across the year might be one solution to that."

Under Government reforms, academies and free schools already have the freedom to set their own hours and term times and this is being extended to schools still under local council control.

Mr Hobby said: "We would like to see local or regional co-ordination, but at that point you could also have the opportunity to have a staggering of holidays.

"So if different parts of the country within local authority boundaries or regional boundaries had slightly different holiday times I think that would ease the pressure on the prices of holidays as well."

Education Secretary Michael Gove has previously called for longer school days and terms, warning that the current system is out of date, and fit for the agricultural economy of the 19th century.

Mr Smart said: "It's a mistake to think that trying to get exactly the same holiday over a different time of year would give the same holiday for less money.

"At the moment, tourism businesses are able to concentrate their resources in the summer and run down in the winter. If they have to provide the same services for 52 weeks in a year, they are obviously going to have to pass on the costs. People prefer their holidays in the summer, not in February."

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