Campaigners back plans to decouple school spring break from Easter
Campaigners have supported proposals to decouple the school spring break from the Easter public holiday in Wales.
The National Secular Society (NSS) welcomed the plans outlined in a Welsh government consultation on the structure of the school year.
The Easter public holiday is a ‘moveable feast’ and its date can vary by more than a month from March 22 at the earliest to April 25 at the latest.
Currently, the two week school holiday in spring is set based on the date of Easter that year.
Evidence suggests that the distribution and placement of breaks can have an impact on learner progression and attainment, the government said.
It said variations of term lengths “can have a negative impact on learners”.
This is “a particular concern” when Easter falls later in spring, resulting in less time in school immediately prior to external examinations.
The NSS said structuring the school term around Christian observances was “especially inappropriate” in a diverse society like Wales.
Census results from 2021 showed only 44% of the Welsh population is Christian. Forty-seven percent of the population have no religion, making nonreligious people the largest group in Wales.
The NSS said it was “increasingly anachronistic” to structure school holidays around Easter as fewer families celebrate Easter in a Christian way.
YouGov polling from 2020 showed over half of Brits celebrate Easter in “an entirely secular way”. Only 10% celebrate it in an entirely religious way.
The Local Government Association and the Family and Childcare Trust have both expressed support for a fixed Easter school holiday to allow parents to arrange childcare more easily.
Fixing the Easter public holiday
The NSS also told the Welsh government it should consider fixing the Easter public holidays.
In 2022, then Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets Paul Scully MP said businesses and schools “would benefit from the clarity” of implementing an annual fixed date for public holidays around Easter.
The Easter Act 1928 was intended to fix the date of the Easter public holiday. However, Christian groups have been unable to reach consensus on a fixed date.
The NSS said religious resistance to fixing a date is “not a legitimate basis” for ignoring the needs of schools and families who are disadvantaged by the fluctuating holidays.
Speaking in the Westminster parliament in 2015, Sir Greg Knight MP said “it does seem a bit odd that, 87 years after Parliament agreed that Easter should be on a fixed date, we’re still waiting for the churches to make up their minds. This has been on the statute book for a long time.”
NSS: ‘Educational benefits for students and clarity for parents’
NSS campaigns officer Alejandro Sanchez said: “We fully support this sensible proposal to decouple the school spring break from the Easter holidays.
“The proposed structure would provide educational benefits for students, clarity for parents and better reflect a diverse society like Wales.
“We would also encourage the Welsh government to go further and end the fluctuating date of the Easter public holiday, which causes significant disruption to families and businesses.”
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