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For Some Students, the Summer Holidays are not a Welcome Break

For a significant number of young people and their families, the prospect of a long break away from school can be a cause for anxiety, rather than celebration, says Vic Goddard...

  • For Some Students, the Summer Holidays are not a Welcome Break

The end of the academic year rapidly approaches and I know I’m not the only one who cannot wait to be able to spend some time with my family, catch up with friends and relax for a while.

However, what has become increasingly evident is that many of our families and learners do not have the same positive feelings about impending time off school.

I am sure that plenty of you will have noticed anxiety levels building up in your young people as you approach a major holiday like Christmas or the lengthy summer break.

We certainly have. We have noticed how the number of ‘difficult’ emails we receive from parents/carers increases during these times, too.

Any of this ringing any bells? I know it will, because I read about increasing numbers of schools offering almost year-round provision to support their communities.

A safe space

For a number of our students, often the ones that struggle to show how thankful they are to have us, school is safe, consistent and welcoming.

And for many of the parents/carers of those students, school provides peace of mind. They know that there are staff looking out for their child, keeping them safe and providing them with food and direction.

I have lost count over recent years of how many parents/carers have told me how difficult the long summer break is for them. How they haven’t got the extended family network to look after their child while they go to work. How finding the extra money needed to feed and entertain them is a real strain.

It is important to recognise that the sense of joy and relief that we feel for having made it to the end of the year, generally unscathed, is not shared by everyone in the community we serve. For some the structure and safety we provide gives comfort and lessens anxiety; when it is removed for six weeks, they struggle.

So what can we do to lessen the anxiety of young people and their families, when we have less money than ever and less staff capacity, too?

Continuous support

The summer school funding for disadvantaged students was taken away overnight despite it being ‘vital’ when it was introduced.

Nonetheless, the governors at Passmores have made it clear that we must still offer a summer school for students who are transitioning from primary to secondary as a priority after receiving feedback from parents/carers.

Obviously this is more difficult every year as money gets cut constantly; but out of the 240 students coming into year 7 in September 2019 we have around 200 that will attend every day of summer school; it is hard to argue that there is no demand with that response.

We make sure that we do simple things like keeping the concrete tennis courts and the all-weather pitch open during the holidays, so our young people can just come and play to give them something constructive to do.

We also publicise whatever free/cheap events are happening in the community, as well as offering community groups heavily discounted or free use of our facilities if they offer free places to our students.

And this year, for the first time, we are working with our amazing local food bank to help keep our learners fed throughout the summer holidays

There is so much more we’d like to do – but of course, funding is always going to be a challenge, and in the case of some of our ambitions, an insurmountable barrier, which is heartbreaking.

Please remember, then, over the next few weeks, that the upset emails you receive may be as a result of you not being around for the holidays, as you are an important part of the lives of many young people and their families.

So instead of despairing when they pop into your inbox, remind yourself what they say about what you offer to those families: compassion, consistency and someone they can trust.


Follow Vic Goddard on Twitter at @vicgoddard.

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