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Plans to change summer holidays in Wales delayed

Senedd. Credit: Welsh Government

The Cabinet Secretary for Education has today [Tuesday 4th June 2024] confirmed that plans to change the school holidays will not happen this Senedd term to give teachers and staff space and time to deliver other reforms.

The decision follows a mixed response from the biggest Welsh Government education consultation on record, generating well over 16,000 responses, which sought views on changing the school calendar to spread school holidays out more evenly across the year.

Proposals suggested moving a week from the start of the summer break into the autumn break creating a two-week half term to improve the education experiences of young people especially the most disadvantaged and align more effectively with how families live and work.

While a narrow majority of responses were in favour of changing school holidays, the findings from the consultation were equivocal and contradictory which highlights more discussion and exploration is needed to ensure any future amendments benefit everyone.

The pause will also allow other reforms such as the New Curriculum for Wales and reforms of Additional Learning Needs to be fully implemented and rolled out before other changes are introduced.

The decision on the timing of implementation of the plans will also be deferred to the next Senedd term.

The Education Secretary Lynne Neagle said:

“My starting point is always the best interests of children and young people. This means ensuring reforms are properly planned out and have the time and space to succeed.

“Opinion was hugely divided on this. To ensure we get this right, we need to continue listening to and engaging with schools, teachers, unions as well as children, young people and parents on how best we can implement any changes in the future.

“I am acutely aware we are asking a lot of teachers and schools. They are supporting our ambitious transformation of education in Wales and they need the time and the space to ensure these reforms deliver for children and young people. I want to prioritise ongoing school reforms and improving attainment and therefore, no changes will be made to the school year this Senedd term.

“In the meantime, our priority will be to maximise the support available to learners during the summer holidays including doing more to target that provision towards the poorest communities through a range of policies and activities including the School Holiday Enrichment Programme and Community Focused Schools.”

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement that no changes to the school year will take place during the current Senedd term, Laura Doel, national secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said:

“We opposed the proposed reforms to the school year from the outset, and therefore welcome this announcement and thank the new cabinet secretary for education for listening to the profession.

“Changes of this magnitude cannot be taken on a whim and need to be supported by really strong evidence that this would benefit pupils, but no such evidence was forthcoming.

“While we dispute the Welsh Government’s perception that responses to the proposals in its consultation were mixed, we are pleased that the profession has been given an assurance that there will be no changes to the school year during this Senedd term.

“This should never have been a priority, especially amid other reforms to the curriculum and alternative learning needs (ALN) provision. We are grateful tothe cabinet secretary for being brave enough to put much more pressing issues to the top of her agenda rather than pressing ahead with a reform which would have had no benefit to learners.”