we're all going on a summer holiday

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Yep, once upon a time for ol’ Cliffy-boy it was for only a week or two but with today’s extended school summer holidays it seems to go on forever, and then some. The historical importance, within a once agricultural based society, of the traditional extended summer break, where children were required to work in the fields harvesting this year’s crops is no longer of importance so why do we continue with them?

Showing my age, my first summer holidays where ‘only’ four weeks in duration but I do remember my delight when they were extended to five. Invariably, we’d then spend an idle week on the sands in Blackpool and perhaps a week in a caravan trudging around the Lakes. Should we deny this to the school kids of today? It’s become a perennial argument that we should consign the long summer holidays to the history books, and divide the school year into five terms with short breaks between.

Recent research has shown shows that the reading ability of poorer children declines over the summer, while the richer kids become more literate. How come? It’s all about the activity. Long summer holidays are great fun if you’re having a laugh, doing things, exploring, making new pals, escaping on an adventure but if you’re confined to the TV and PS2 in a cramped flat with no stimulus and no fun then you’re on a slippery slope heading out of the water park. More often than not we’re back to the haves and have-nots.

Instead of denying the kids the benefits of a long break let’s seek to provide the chance to enjoy them. That means organising and providing subsidised activities, improving and expanding parks and play areas, building lidos, protecting playing fields, encouraging them to get out there and explore, laying more cycle lanes and getting them into sport, any sport. Perhaps I’m harking back to a bygone age of ‘swallows and amazons and the famous five’ but shouldn’t we at least try to give kids a better summer, before giving up on the break altogether?