School children’s summer holidays are too long and should be cut to reduce inequality, a teacher and columnist has suggested.
On Newstalk Breakfast, Jennifer Horgan said the holidays can see some children falling behind – with families unable to pay for extracurricular education.
She admitted the idea would be “very unpopular” with many of her colleagues - but feels it is a policy worth considering.
Secondary school pupils in Ireland get a three-month summer holiday, while those in primary school get two.
“I think if we were in line with primary schools, we’d still have a lovely long holiday and the opportunity to have all those lovely experiences over summer,” Ms Horgan said.
“There’s an issue for children who won’t have a parent who is at home; whose family maybe don’t have the money to pay for expensive courses and trips to the Gaeltacht.
“I see it as a time when the gap is widening between children and inequalities are getting deeper.
“Then, we’re playing catch up for the rest of the year.”
Ms Horgan said as a child she had “brilliant summer holidays” but feels that is partly because of her family background.
Her home was filled with books and her parents were comfortably off university graduates.
“My parents could afford to send me away,” she said.
“I did all sorts of sports courses and so my education continued through the three months.”
Ms Horgan does not expect the unions ever to support a shorter summer holiday.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
“I don’t think it would happen and I think one of the reasons why they don’t do it is because they say, ‘Well, we need June for the exams.’”
Despite this, Ms Horgan feels pupils would actually benefit from being in school during exam time.
“If we had actual proper school facilities - which unfortunately many of us don’t - we’d be able to do it no problem,” she said.
“You just have a section of the school that was for exams, the rest of the school would just carry on as normal.
“It wouldn't be a bad thing because it would normalise the exam time.”
Some 135,000 secondary school pupils are sitting their first State exams today, the rest are enjoying the first week of their summer holidays.
Main image: Teenagers eating ice cream. Picture by: Alamy.com