Brighton’s New Two-Week Half-Term – How Did It Go?

Brighton half-term

Brighton and Hove City Council started a two-year trial of a new two-week half-term this October.  We are about to come to the end of the first year’s trial. How did it go for you?

Last July (2016), we welcomed the decision from the council to extend the school’s half-term for a trial two-year period. Prompted by the government’s draconian (and in my view, misguided) application of fines for unauthorised absence and the rising cost of family holidays in the UK and abroad, a campaign mobilised by a local mum, got the attention it deserved.

Brighton was gently mocked by some as living up to our middle-class image. Of course, we wanted cheaper holidays and that was the primary driver. Or was it?

It’s not just parents who are penalised by holiday companies’ pricing structures. It’s teachers too. We want our teachers inspired and motivated but do we provide the right environment that to happen?

And whether it’s a staycation, vacation or trip-of-a-lifetime, all of which I have seen in my Instagram feed since 13th October when the schools broke up, it’s quality family time. It’s educational time.

Parents can’t win, can we? Both mum and dad work to keep the lights on and food on the table. We work long hours, some have a commute, juggling breakfast and afterschool clubs. Ok, that’s our choice. To live in a city with rocketing housing costs. So perhaps we shouldn’t grumble about our lot and move somewhere cheaper.

We’re criticised for not speaking to our kids, not reading to our kids, not spending enough time. But we can’t just take any day out to have a family day – no. That’s unauthorised absence, putting children dangerously behind on the impossible academic programme our government has deemed suitable to train a future workforce. Unless it’s an exam year, I just can’t see the rationale. Especially in schools where pupil absence is not particularly an issue.

aeroplane
Even Easyjet’s school holiday prices are out of many families’ league.
So, when exactly do experts and politicians suggest we take this quality time? Weekends are a given. But the school holidays are tricky. Family activities are either crowded or expensive – no matter where you go or what you choose. Camping placement prices increase. Flights and package holidays are unrealistic for many family budgets.

Time out together as a family is SO important. It connects you in a way which helps with the challenges of developing well-rounded young people. Families need to laugh, run around, have meals and discover things together. Those moments help us understand each other and form a foundation of trust which lasts through to teenage years and adulthood.

Especially with siblings. Our girls’ paths don’t cross that often at school, so on weekends, we can be faced with exhausting fights and power struggles. Give us three days on holiday and they are the best of friends. And when things get stressful back in our daily lives, they have a library of experiences together to remind them how to interact. It just gets better as they develop.

Plus, this early long break has been a welcome breather for my eldest’s anxiety. It has helped her digest the new school year and put her head in a positive frame of mind for the rest of the year. 

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Mummy’s educational trip to Florence. Ahem.
How has it gone for us? Well perfectly. It just so happened this first trial coincided with my husband’s 50th. So we could plan the party, some family time and squeeze in a mum and dad trip away where the grandparents didn’t have to deal with the school run. I’ve seen from my social media feeds, so many families take trips home and abroad with mucho educational value. A bit of culture and sunshine fun in October, it’s a rare thing!

BUT not everyone managed to make this week work for them. So the next step is to make sure everyone gets their say. 
What did you get up to? And have you already made plans for next year?

About Claire Jones-Hughes

Founder and co-editor of BrightonMums.com, Claire has been blogging since 2009. She has posted on a variety of sites including The Argus, The Huffington Post and The Guardian's Comment Is Free. Known as The Contented Mummy on social media, she is dedicated to honest, unsponsored blogging so that parents can benefit from shared experience. Can also be found at www.fitfaband40.co.uk - sharing her journey to health & wellness.

View all posts by Claire Jones-Hughes →

25 Comments on “Brighton’s New Two-Week Half-Term – How Did It Go?”

  1. I felt this was poorly consulted in the first place. 2 weeks off in October is too soon after the summer hols. It only benefits the few who wish to go away this time of year to hot destinations. It will be greatly felt at Christmas with the shorter holiday. Get rid of the 2 weeks at October and return to the 6 weeks in summer when you have a slightly better chance of some sun.

    1. That’s really interesting about the consultation – what do you think the Council could have done better? How much shorter is Christmas holiday for your school? With us I think it’s only two days but they have added an inset day to January I believe.

  2. As a parent of a young adult with learning disability & ASC it had mixed results. We were due to go on holiday. But to do so we had to save for a year to pay for it & could only take this 1 week off. Then our holiday got cancelled due to us flying with Monarch. Big shame & the weather was awful. Really tough as whatever the choice it meant going somewhere indoors which costs lots of money. No clubs or respite so my husband & I are shattered.

  3. 1 in 6 children in Brighton and Hove live in poverty. There are now 15 food banks in Brighton and Hove relied on by many of these children and families. After the struggle of managing through the summer holiday without free school meals and breakfast clubs, a two week half term means even more challenges to families, children in particular in the city who rely on support during term time just to survive. Those in poverty can’t always access/afford internet access and the priority may well not be to discuss whether a two week half term affects them financially. Is it really all about affordable holidays for “all” or yet another arrangement which benefits the few and not the many?…

    1. It’s not about affordable holidays entirely. It can’t be if holidays companies will catch on in time. For us it was about having time off where there’s no bank holiday mayhem or festive obligations. I’m self-employed with a husband working shifts in adult social care. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to have a holiday in October but I saw my children very much appreciate the long break and have time just to be. Many days we just stayed at home Especially as one suffers from anxiety.

  4. I think it was too soon after the summer break and would be better if it was applied to the Feb half term rather than October. We only had 6 weeks back then 2 weeks off – I think we need the longer break (kids/parents/teachers) later in the year as parents still recovering from summer and the kids are still fresh after that whereas later everyone is starting to tire. Also for a working single mum its a lot of expense for care so soon after summer and employers are not as understanding on additional leave as they would be 4 months later. So personally I’d welcome the extra week after the winter so we can get some sun when we need it more.?

    1. It’s a really good point about the additional cost so soon. But in time do you think it will adjust over the year, as there’ll be less days to find childcare for at Xmas and Easter?

    2. I agree that february would be better for my working life (at least for people like me working in HE – it’s a quieter month). It would be good for my partner who can’t have leave between mid-november and any time during december, so he coould get a bit of a rest.

      Unfortunately the cost of childcare doesn’t work out over the year because my employer has closure days during easter and christmas, so I HAVE to take some of my annual leave then. So I’m off then anyway, an no need to pay for childcare. I realise that may only affect those working in Universities or colleges, but that’s a lot of people in this area.

    3. For a lot of us we couldn’t afford to go away in February nor cover cost of an extra holiday so soon after Christmas

  5. I totally agree that the cost of holidays in set holiday times is a big problem and I think this is great idea for the families it benefits.

    I come from a family where this extra week has brought great burden and stress. My daughter has physical and intellectual disabilities. Looking after her is very demanding and her school time offers some respite for the whole family. She gets to be in an environment away from home, amongst people qualified to look after her and that enriches her life. I get time to spend with my younger son and we can do things that I just can’t do when I am looking after my daughter too. I’m trapped indoors when I have both of them. Also, it is very disruptive for my daughters schedule to change. It is too complicated for her to understand and she becomes frustrated.

    My partner is freelance and it is hard for him to take breaks from work. This has meant that this break has cost us a lot of additional money in childcare.

    Overall this has been a very negative experience.

    I sympathise with the reasons behind the idea and I hope in the future there can be more lenience to let parents take their children on holiday when it is cheaper. I personally think it’s ridiculous that there are such strict rules on this!

    1. There’s most certainly a pattern among those with children who need additional support and I hope the Council takes full account of these different viewpoints. If only we could just take the odd day here and there without the fear of being fined! Then this would all be moot. Thanks for your comment. X x

        1. So our Council are trying a local solution for a national problem. It’s really the mammoth task of lobbying government that needs doing! It seems the many are penalised for the absence issues of the few.

  6. This is great if you can afford an additional holiday just after the summer not so great if you have a disabled child and limited care opportunities. This extra break has cost me money as had to take unpaid leave and is too soon after the summer making it confusing for my son who has just got back into rhythm of school. I’ve also not spoken to anyone working in education who welcomed it in fact mostly the opposite.

    1. Do you think more notice than July 2016 should have been given to change the pattern of the school holidays (there’s no extra days)? So that parents could have had time to make different arrangements?

      1. For me extra notice would not make any positive difference. I have no family support locally so I would still have to pay for any additional childcare (which I can’t really afford, but for the sanity of my family I have had to cut costs elsewhere and string out as much extra cash for care as I can. Needless to say, that’s quite a burden) On the days without care I have been isolated in my own home.

        Although it may not be any extra time, just time collected from the rest of the year and squashed together that still has more negative impact for familes with disabled children. An odd day here or there is much more manageable than a whole week.

        The reality for families of children with disabilities is that any holiday time is a real struggle. So elongating any holiday is never going to be welcomed happily.

        Additional therapies are all cancelled over this period as therapists have to look after their children on holiday. My daughter goes from having lots of input from lots of professionals helping her live her life to her full potential, to being stuck at home with me and her brother and having a very limited and frustrating time.

        It is so hard to communicate how different life is with a child who has complex needs. We are a minority, but the impact is very big for us.

  7. I don’t know any teachers that could afford another holiday – just 6 weeks after a 6 week break! I didn’t benefit from any cheap holiday deals and from a professional point of view a two week break for secondary schools in October is not ideal. This is a productive time of year and adding days to the end of Xmas and summer will not get the same productivity rates from the students. This term is great for getting students back and settled and the two week break has been a disruption to that for me. Sorry, not positive – I hope it doesn’t continue even though those who can afford it to had lovely holidays. Remember there are many many families who can not afford holidays, this is a gimmick for the rich!

  8. For infant children I think this is fine my daughters school have just introduced this as an academy – she is in year 11 facing harder than ever exams that go full pelt with the new system of grading I think it’s ridiculous as if they don’t get enough holidays – the cost of holidays is a completely separate issue that holiday companies will cotton onto soon enough I think this is wrong in secondary education

  9. Those of us working in education (lots in Brighton I would think as there are plenty of colleges and Unis) can’t have 2 weeks off in the busiest term. Because of how the dates fall combined with my employer regs and husbands public sector shift patterns, my family cant get a week off together all year anymore unless we pay for childcare for some of the holidays. But if we do that we can’t afford a holiday, so it’s not great. Previously we’ve managed one week a year together ?

    1. Sorry, that sounded v grumpy. I realise we’re probably a minority, it’s just a real headache sorting childcare this year.

  10. Although my first thought as a working Mum was argh I’ve got an extra weeks childcare to organise- I soon realised that the difference in costs of holidays for the first week of this half term was unbelievable as putting the extra week at the start of the half term also avoided the majority of private school 2 week half terms too. I’d say the majority of families in my daughters year one class were going away for at least a few days during this first week both in the uk and abroad! We ended up going to South Wales and paid less than a third of the price that we would’ve for the following two weeks so we felt it was fantastic! What I hadn’t realised is that this week changes next year and the extra week as after the standard half term week – meaning that it is the same as private schools and also the weather in Southern Europe is not likely to be so good and many of the European resorts are closed for season!
    So I’m all for it but have a preference to the extra week being before rather than after the existing half term as it offers more scope for families and teachers who want to go away!!

    1. This just highlights I don’t feel it has been thought through at all & I believe any family would say take time off the long summer break & leave the other holidays alone. Easter 2018 ends on a Thursday so kids go back on a Friday! That’s stupid.

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