There is a comforting familiarity with the annual cycle of schooling. It feels like it makes sense doesn’t it? The system is particularly neat in southern hemisphere schools were the Gregorian calendar (created in 1582) starts and ends in synchrony with our ‘school year’. School finishes in December and we wind down for our six or seven-week summer vacation.
For the most part, we look forward to the long holiday. We feel we need it to recover from the year just gone and to rejuvenate and prepare ourselves physically and mentally for the coming year. But do we really need the long summer break? Is it the most effective and efficient use of schools’ time? And what about the educational, developmental and wellbeing impact on our students? Do teachers need a long holiday each year more than other professions? What would happen if we didn’t have such a long break?
Like too much of traditional schooling, we ‘go through the motions’ – we continue to do things the same way because that’s how they’ve always been done.
However, there are now more than 4,000 schools in the USA that have switched to ‘Year-Round’ scheduling – with no long summer break. It’s too early to tell what impact this development is having on learning. But it is exciting that schools are asking: is there another way? Is there a better way?