Find out about the work that is exploring changes to the school year.
The Welsh Government is delivering on its manifesto, 'Programme for government' and co-operation agreement aim to reform school term dates. A public consultation has been agreed looking at how term dates, the distribution of school holidays and length of terms can work better for learners, school staff and parents.
Reasons to consider change
The school year in Wales has not changed for 150 years. It was designed for a very different time, when going to school was voluntary, there was no national curriculum and children were expected to contribute to the agricultural economy during the long holidays.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on learning and how we structed and delivered schooling. It would be a wasted opportunity if we did not take the chance to learn the lessons of the last two years and look at how the school calendar could be improved.
Over recent years there have been many changes and improvements to education in Wales. We have a new national curriculum, there is greater teacher professional learning, we have new ways of supporting learners with Additional Learning Needs and many other changes. The one aspect that has not changed, or even been looked at before now, is a fundamental one: the way we structure the school year, terms, and holidays.
We will look at the system as a whole and see how we can better support the teaching profession in planning and managing workload, while helping address the learning loss and effects on the wellbeing of learners and staff, that the profession tells us comes from a long summer and uneven terms.
Things that won’t change
Reforming the school year is not about reducing school holidays; there will be no changes to the overall number of holidays for learners and teachers. The Welsh Government wants to look at how we distribute the same number of holidays across the year.
In addition, we have a commitment that the summer holiday will be at least four weeks in length.
Reforming the school year is not about more hours or extending the school day. The Welsh Government has, separately, supported programmes to deliver extra enrichment sessions for learners, and many schools and local authorities are making their own changes to school hours, but these activities are not related to the planned consultation on school term dates.
Tourism, childcare and other sectors
The Welsh Government is engaging with the workers and employers from sectors outside of education. The primary objectives of reforming the school year are to address disadvantage, narrow educational inequalities, support learner and staff wellbeing and bring the school calendar more in line with contemporary life. It is important to recognise it is an education reform. It is also important that the wider potential impact, opportunities, and benefits of any changes are shared and understood.
Different term dates across the UK
Although there are similarities in the school calendars of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, they are not the same. It should also be noted that Scotland operate a different term time structure entirely. Any changes to the school year following the consultation will apply in Wales only.
The Welsh Government commissioned Beaufort Research, in partnership with Cazbah, to carry out a research and engagement exercise into attitudes towards school year reform in Wales.
Through this research and engagement with learners, parents, education staff and others, a number of key issues have been raised. These include, but are not restricted to:
- the length of the autumn term with only a week half-term break
- the Easter break changing dates every year
- inconsistent length of terms and half-term breaks
- better organising INSET and transition periods within the year
- the length of the summer break
Through a formal consultation we will gather views on the suitability of current and alternative school year models to tackle disadvantage, enhance learner progression, support well-being, align with modern life and work. We will also consider impacts and opportunities for other sectors such as tourism and childcare.
To date, no decisions have been made. We are looking at the impact of different options in relation to redistributing holiday periods and term lengths.