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Canterbury: Rosie Duffield MP asks if summer holidays should be shortened

Canterbury's MP has suggested scrapping six-week summer holidays to help cash-strapped families.

Rosie Duffield has asked if breaks should be spread out over the school year, arguing that extended time off often leaves parents struggling to pay for extra meals, childcare and days out.

Saying that redesigning the academic calendar could help families make ends meet, the Labour MP has questioned whether the current set-up 'has had its day'.

Rosie Duffield MP has asked if the six-week summer break 'has had its day'.
Rosie Duffield MP has asked if the six-week summer break 'has had its day'.

She said: "Having spent years working in primary schools and as a parent and a single mother, I am all too aware of the often hidden, but nevertheless significant, issue for many families across the country: the summer holidays.

"For many, the words 'summer holiday' conjure up images of fun, relaxation and family time, for others this is a period of immense pressure.

"Families should not be put in the position where they approach the summer holidays with anxiety about their financial situation.

"If that means we also have to look at how and when school holidays fall in the calendar, then let's look at that too."

Research by the Family and Childcare Trust has found that in the south east, summer comes with an average price tag of almost £800 per child, for six weeks of childcare at £133 per week.

And according to a survey by the National Education Union, more than half (59%) of secondary teachers think children in their school experience 'holiday hunger'.

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield.
Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield.

Teachers are split over the pros and cons of doing away with six-week holidays.

Christine Gregory, a spokesman for the National Education Union, said: "Some argue that the summer holiday is too long, and disadvantaged children in particular fall behind academically because they're not being stimulated, and from that point of view, that summer holidays should be shortened.

"Others say it's really good for children to have time off, and that children who have families that have the time and energy to support and interact with them actually benefit from that time with them, and also having an unstructured day.

"There's also the issue of staff. A lot of teaching staff are exhausted by the time they get to the end of term.

"The bottom line is that these families are struggling and they need extra support. But that's another issue entirely. That's an argument about the help and support that should be in place for those families.

"The issue of child poverty isn't just limited to the summer holidays, it's an issue the whole year round."

Ms Duffield, who has also called for more funding for childcare, is planning to raise the issue in parliament when MPs return in September.

"We need to wake up and address the needs of parents, not just abdicate our responsibilities and ignore what is a huge issue, causing many people financial strain and unnecessary stress," she continued.

"Parents should receive full support so that their lives are not impeded by additional costs, which successive governments have failed to address.

"I want the summer holidays to be exactly what they are intended for – a break for hardworking teachers, school staff and school children– not a six-week money-draining slog."

What do you think? Email kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk.

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