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Welsh schools could have shorter summer holidays in proposed shakeup

The era of school summer holidays that seem to drift on for ever may be drawing to a close for the children of Wales.

Welsh ministers are proposing to change the school calendar so that breaks are spread out more equally, which it believes will help children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Labour-led administration has launched a consultation on changes that could lead to a five-week break in summer 2026 and, possibly, a four-week holiday in years to come.

Jeremy Miles, the minister for education and Welsh language, said: “The long summer break can be a real strain. Families struggle to find childcare over the six weeks, and others struggle with the additional costs long summers bring. We know our most disadvantaged learners suffer the most learning loss from a long summer.”

The proposal is likely to be resisted by some teachers. In a briefing paper, the teachers’ union NASUWT said there was “no sustainable educational argument” for change and it could worsen working conditions.

The government said the number of days in school holidays and teaching would not change. It said research suggested the autumn term was tiring and challenging for learners and staff as it was longer, with more teaching squeezed into this term than any other.

Some pupils, especially those from financially disadvantaged backgrounds and those with additional learning needs, find it difficult to get back to learning after long summer holidays, the government says. This results in the autumn term being devoted to going over things rather than advancing learning. Teachers also report more behavioural and wellbeing issues after the summer break.

Under the proposal, a week would be taken from the start of the summer holidays and added to the October break. If the changes go ahead, schools would get a two-week break in October 2025 and a five-week summer break in 2026.

Further changes could include moving a second week from the summer holidays and adding it to the Whitsun break and having GCSE and A-level results days in the same week.

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Jason Elsom, the chief executive of the charity Parentkind, said: “Our recent poll of 6,800 parents in Wales revealed that the majority of parents support a move to spread school holidays more evenly across the year, with 72% of lower-income families in favour.”

Across England and Scotland there is a range of lengths of summer holidays. The Welsh government is keen that schools across Wales follow one, unified pattern.

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