On 20th October 2020, Eastling school took part in the Little Debate, which was organized by Sid Sloane from CBeebies, in partnership with The Chiltern Learning Trust. This was to take place using an online platform, against another school, Alexander McLeod Primary in Greenwich, London. This was the first time the school had entered such a competition and we were a little nervous!
The motion was:
The school summer holidays should be longer than six weeks.
Eastling was to debate against this motion.
Run as an extra-curricular club, a team of 8 children met weekly in the Autumn term to research, discuss, write and practise their speeches against the motion. As a team, they allocated 2 key speakers, a captain, a timekeeper, note makers and a rebuttal speaker. This was a great opportunity for team and confidence building as well as critical thinking and the children really enjoyed taking part each week.
On the day itself, the speakers spoke confidently and clearly in front of a live audience. They were only allowed to speak for up to 6 minutes. The opposing speakers from Alistair McLeod school then had their turn to debate against the motion, again with a maximum of 6 minutes each. A 7 minute break then began in order for the rebuttal speaker to make notes and prepare a counter argument against their opposition. The rebuttal speaker had up to 3 minutes to continue to speak.
A panel of judges then made the decision on which team had won the debate. The quality and style of the delivery, strength of points raised, the rebuttals and team responses during the audience questions were the scoring criteria to make this decision.
After a nerve-wracking discussion by the judges, they revealed their winner – which was Eastling Primary! The team were delighted.
Here are their motions:
Motion: The School summer holidays should be longer than 6 weeks.
Eastling Primary school -AGAINST
Speaker 1: Emily
Why is school so important? Perhaps one of the most important reasons to attend school is the wealth of knowledge and information provided within the school setting. Primary school provides the building blocks of a child’s education. School provides a safe haven for the spread of ideas, and often gives us access to subjects and ideas that we wouldn’t regularly find in our homes or with our friends.
So what about the school holidays? Should they be longer than 6 weeks?
We at Eastling think that six weeks is plenty of time to rest and recharge the batteries of both pupils and teachers over the school holidays. Any more time than this, can mean children can forget their learning, as they are not refreshing their memories.
In order to acquire new knowledge, children need to consistently refresh their memories by going over their work, and long study breaks are not helpful to this. It is widely recognised that during the school holidays children forget a certain amount and can even regress in their learning. It can take a while in September to recover this lost ground. In 2008, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said studies suggested pupils' reading and maths abilities went backwards because the summer break was too long. It said the dip in reading appeared to be largest for children from poorer homes.
In addition to this, children can get incredibly bored and listless with a lack of structure at home. They may just get out of the habit of the routine and discipline of school if the school holidays are longer than 6 weeks, leading to behaviour problems when they return as they re-adjust to school life.
As well as this, the curriculum requires teachers to plan a certain amount of topics throughout the year. If the school holidays were extended, this means that there is less teaching time and it will be hard to fit it all in. Therefore teachers may become stressed.
While some people may argue that the long holiday encourages families to indulge in quality time together, fewer parents than before are able to devote the entire holiday to their children because of work commitments. Some parents will find it difficult to manage the availability and cost of childcare during the school holidays as well as entertainment costs such as days out. Children can easily become bored or lonely and perhaps find themselves mixing with the wrong crowd or even getting into trouble. It can be very stressful for parents who simply cannot afford to give their children exciting experiences and they may feel guilty about this. It can also be stressful for families who find being together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the same house difficult and arguments may break out especially between siblings. This can be detrimental to families and affect everyone’s wellbeing.
Some children could miss their friends and begin to feel isolated and lonely at home, not knowing what to do with themselves. This could lead to mental health issues including depression or anxiety.
Evidence of this has been seen recently in young children during the COVID lockdown. More than 10,000 parents have now taken part in a survey led by the University of Oxford about children’s mental health during lockdown. Parents and carers of children aged 4-10 years of age reported that over a one-month period in lockdown, they saw increases in their child’s emotional difficulties, such as feeling unhappy, worried, being clingy and experiencing physical symptoms associated with worry. Parents and carers also reported that their children’s behaviour had got worse over time, with an increase in behaviours such as temper tantrums, arguments and children not doing what they are asked. Parents/carers in the survey also reported that their children showed greater levels of restlessness/fidgety behaviour and difficulties concentrating over the one month period. Surely this shows that the six weeks summer holiday is more than enough before it has impacts on children’s mental health?
Other countries that have longer than six weeks summer holidays include places such as Italy and Spain. The reason their holidays are longer than six weeks is due to their climate, where the temperatures over the summer months can reach high levels and make learning impossible. This is not usually the case in our country, so longer holidays are not necessary.
We also have to look at the history of the school summer holidays. The structure of the school term and the school day was designed at a time when we had an agricultural economy back in the 19th century. Lengthy school holidays in this country are a relic of the Victorian era, when farming families needed the children to work on the fields and most mothers stayed at home. This is hardly the case these days.
Speaker 2: Essie
Do the school holidays need to be longer than 6 weeks?
We at Eastling, think that the combination of weekends, bank holidays and half term holidays in addition to the 6 weeks summer holiday are perfectly adequate for children and teachers to re-energise, relax and clear their heads out of the school environment.
Families on a low income may not be able to afford food for the whole of the school holidays. If school holidays were extended beyond six weeks, even more children could go hungry. Whereas at school they may be entitled to a free school meal.
There has recently been a surge in the number of UK children claiming free school meals, with an estimated 1 million pupils recently signing up for the first time, according to food poverty campaigners.
Marcus Rashford, who is the Manchester United and England footballer, urged the government to extend its £15 a week holiday food voucher scheme for children on free school meals over the summer holidays. These families had had their incomes affected the Covid-19 crisis.
Rashford, who was recently for services to vulnerable children, said: The numbers recorded here just reinforce the need for urgency in stabilising households … we must act now to protect the next generation and the most vulnerable across the UK.”
Longer school holidays would also cause parents more stress. Parents who work full time don’t always have the resources for proper childcare when their children are free from school. They can’t always arrange for engaging activities for their children to keep them busy during a long break and might not be able to help them study to catch up with work.
Not all children love the summer school holidays. Some of them hate the change in routine and don’t have enough to do during the holiday. Some may feel unsafe outside their school because their home situation isn’t good or just genuinely enjoy some aspects of school.
As Emily has said, a long study break is more likely to cause students to forget what they have been learning. With games consoles, computers, tablets and the like taking over their lives, they may slip away from study habits and can become lazy from so much time not working. This is more damaging especially to students who need the extra support that they cannot find outside school; where there are people trained to help them, and can concentrate well in an environment designed for studying. Disadvantaged children who do not receive support at home cannot catch up after such a long break.
There is consistent evidence showing that children’s physical activity levels decrease during school holidays and are particularly low at the point of returning to school following longer holidays. Whilst shorter holidays appear to have little influence on physical activity behaviours, after a 3-week holiday, children engage in 33 minutes more inactive behaviour and 12 minutes less moderate-to-vigorous exercise per day. Further evidence has also shown differences between school term and school holiday behaviours in primary-school aged children, with higher inactive behaviour and decreased light activity during holidays. There is also some evidence of increases in the amount of children being overweight and obese seen after the summer holidays.
These are the reasons why we think the school holidays should remain at 6 weeks.