Barnsley Council became the first in England to reduce school summer holidays from six weeks to less than five, a move which is being criticised by secondary heads. Recently, the council cut summer holidays and instead introduced a two-week break in the October half-term to compensate for the change.
The shortened summer break, which will be introduced in the 2017-18 academic year, will combat "learning loss" in pupils, the council argued. According to reports, the decision was made after consultations with neighbouring local authorities in South Yorkshire, head teachers, trade unions and teachers' associations
Some believe that the new change will allow families to go on holidays when prices are lower as compared to peak season time.
"The main differences to this year's dates from previous years - the shorter summer break and a two week break at October half-term - will support educational outcomes for pupils by reducing the long summer break which can lead to learning loss," Councillor Tim Cheetham, the cabinet's spokesperson for People (Achieving Potential), told The Independent. He added: "It also means that holiday weeks are distributed more evenly throughout the school year."
However, the decision has been criticised by head teachers, who believe that October is not the right month to go on a holiday as it would disrupt a child's "learning mindset".
Nick Bowen, the head of Horizon Community College, said that the council has not satisfactorily consulted with schools about the new holiday rule and has asked them to review the decision. "We have been left perplexed that a change of this magnitude is being brought in without any real consultation with all headteachers in the area," he told The Guardian, adding: "This will affect our ability to recruit high-quality staff because they will not want a shorter break – they need to recharge their batteries – and also it may lead to them having different holidays to their children.
"There is also the fact that most of the academies in the area probably won't come on board with it so everyone will have different holidays. And it will be a disaster in terms of attendance because parents who have multiple children will have to take other siblings out of school if the holidays don't match."
The decision came in the midst of allegations that parents should be fined for taking children out of school during term time. In May, Jon Platt, a father from the Isle of Wight, won a case in High Court after he was fined for taking his daughter on holiday to Disneyworld in Florida during term time. He argued that his daughter's unauthorised absence did not mean she failed to attend school regularly.