School year dates in Wales will change as early as October 2025 with the summer holidays being shortened to either five or four weeks, under plans proposed by the Welsh Government. Changes to the school year have been discussed for the last few years and now two options are being put out for consultation - to cut the break to five weeks and possibly to four.
The Welsh Government is proposing to take one week off the start of the summer holidays and adding it to the October half term break. These changes would be made from September 2025, meaning schools would get a two week break in October 2025 half term and a five week, rather than six week summer holiday in 2026.
Reaction has been mixed with school leaders' representatives reacting angrily to the plans and some pupils backing them. The National Association of Head Teachers Cymru and the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru said there are more pressing issues facing schools, such as low attendance and funding cuts and countries with longer summer holidays have better attainment. A consultation last year showed most people were happy with the school calendar as it is now and you can read more about that here.
Consultation on school year dates in Wales, which begins on Tuesday November 21 and ends in February 2024, will also look at additional changes proposed for after 2025. These include cutting the summer holidays to just four weeks by moving a second week from the summer break and adding it to the Whitsun holiday.
The number of days of school holidays, teaching and inset days would not change under either of the plans. Public holidays would also not be affected and would still be taken off.
Under this second post-2025 the two week spring holiday would not necessarily coincide with Easter, although public holidays would still apply for Good Friday and Easter Monday and time for those lost teaching days made up “elsewhere in the year”. The two week break in the spring traditionally coincides with Easter, the dates of which always move, but keeping the two week holiday at a constant midpoint and separating it from Easter would make the term more consistent, the plan explains.
The changes would mean having terms of similar lengths which the Welsh Government said would “make it easier for pupils to learn and teachers to plan”. If the additional changes go ahead and a four week summer holiday is agreed then plans would be made to have GCSE and A Level results days in the same week.
Exam results dates will be considered in the next few years in the same timeframe as the roll out of the new “made for Wales” qualifications. If that goes ahead it will separate Wales’ education and qualifications system even further from those across the border.
There is no law dictating when school holidays are taken with arrangements made by local education authorities, who tend to liaise and have them at the same time. While local authorities would not legally have to abide by any changes, in practice they will because the Education Minister can issue a directive requiring them to do so.
Wales would not be the first area of the UK to shorten summer holidays, but it would become the first and largest overall area to do so. A small number of individual academy schools in England, as well as some local councils in England and Scotland, have already opted for shorter summer holidays and longer half terms.
The Welsh Government has previously said that research carried out by Beaufort showed support for changes to school year dates. Having a shorter summer holiday would help working families with child care, would benefit less advantaged children and learning of all pupils, it added in a statement outlining the plans .
“The current school calendar means that the autumn term is longer than others. Research suggests this term is tiring and challenging for learners and staff, as more teaching is squeezed into this term than any other.
“Some pupils, especially those from financially disadvantaged backgrounds and those with Additional Learning Needs (ALN), find it difficult to get back to learning after long summer breaks. Because the summer break is long, time in the autumn term has to be devoted to going over things rather than advancing learning. Teachers also report more behavioural and well-being issues after the summer break.”
Looking at different school term dates is part of the Co-Operation Agreement the Labour Welsh Government has with Plaid Cymru. Shown the plans today some students at Caerleon Comprehensive were supportive.
One sixth former said: “I agree with the proposed changes to increase the autumn half term. The step up to A Levels is a lot, that plus the UCAS application is a lot to do in a one week October half term.”
Another pupil in year nine agreed saying: “I agree with the proposals. As a year nine the six weeks holiday doesn’t do much to help me pick my GCSEs and having two weeks in October will give me the time to really look at the subjects and I’ll have the time to decide properly.”
Teacher Stuart Parr, head of business studies at the school, claimed he was "almost itching" to get back to work after six weeks off: " I’ve given it a lot of thought, I think the longer half term in October is a good idea," he said.
"It will benefit the students wellbeing and ability to learn. Going from six weeks to five weeks in the summer is manageable. I’m almost itching to get back to work after six weeks off - five weeks is enough time to recharge.”
Announcing the plans Education Minister Jeremy Miles 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 also know our most disadvantaged learners suffer the most ‘learning loss’ from a long summer. There are plenty of examples of local authorities across the UK changing their school calendar to suit local needs.
“We want to make sure education works best for pupils, teachers, and families. We’re looking for people’s views on these changes and what it would mean for them.”
Jason Elsom, Chief Executive of Parentkind, said its recent poll of 6,800 parents in Wales showed a majority of parents supported spreading school holidays more evenly across the year. More than seven in 10 lower income families supported the plan.
“It is fair to say that the current concentration of school holidays in the summer months results in inflated childcare and family holiday costs, compounding the challenges faced during the cost-of-living crisis. Most importantly this impacts the life experiences and chances of the most vulnerable of children - we are pleased to see this consultation by the Welsh Government.”
But the proposals have met with consternation by school leaders. Laura Doel, National Secretary of NAHT Cymru, said there was no appetite for changes politicians propose, or evidence that they would be beneficial.
“We are bewildered as to why this consultation is taking place. No evidence has yet been presented that changing the school year would have any educational benefit for learners,” she said.
“The previous consultation on this subject showed there was no real appetite for change, from parents, educators, businesses or the general public. So why is this continuing to be pushed as a priority right now?
“NAHT Cymru firmly believes that the basis of any reform should ensure the best provision and outcomes for learners. In fact, the little evidence available on school holidays shows that countries with much longer summer breaks than Wales have higher levels of attainment and suffer no significant loss of learning.
“With so much going on in schools right now, with a new curriculum, ALN reform, and severe recruitment and retention and funding crises, this just isn’t a priority for schools. Welsh Government would be better served in focusing on providing support to teachers and learners, and helping schools deliver current reforms, before embarking on any further changes to education.
“When school staff are being made redundant to balance the books, when schools should be prioritising delivering quality education to learners, and when we are deeply concerned about the recruitment and retention crisis, this should not be a priority for government.
“Additionally, we are concerned to see the inclusion of an implementation date in this consultation – it seems to beg the question whether this is a true consultation, or has the government made up its mind already?”
Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said: “There are many issues which need to be addressed in our schools – lack of sufficient funding, teacher shortages, high levels of pupil absence, a rising tide of mental health concerns, and unsustainable workloads. The school calendar, however, is not one of those issues.
“There is no chorus for change from parents or staff, and adjustments to a well-established calendar are likely to be extremely disruptive. We simply do not understand why this matter is being treated as a priority by the Welsh government. It is an act of folly.”
Previous changes to school term and holiday dates, proposed in a survey last year included three options. These were having three school terms of about 13 weeks each, five school terms of about seven to eight weeks, or six school terms lasting about six to seven weeks. That has now been whittled down to one proposal to shorten the summer term first from six to five weeks and then to four, with the autumn half term lengthened and spring holiday not necessarily coinciding with Easter.
Join the WalesOnline WhatsApp community
WalesOnline has launched a new breaking news and top stories WhatsApp community. From the biggest court stories to the latest traffic updates, weather warnings and breaking news, it's a simple way to stay up to date with what's happening in Wales.
Want to join? All you have to do is click on this link, select 'Join Community' and you're in. No one else in the community can see your personal information and you will only receive messages from the WalesOnline team. We will not spam your feed with constant messages, but you will receive updates from us daily.
If for some reason you decide you no longer want to be in our community, you can leave by clicking on the name at the top of your screen and clicking 'Exit Group'. You can read our Privacy Notice here.