A proposal to shorten the summer school holidays by up to two weeks is "ridiculous" and it would be "mean" to deprive teachers of their break, Tauranga-based MP Jan Tinetti says.

The idea has been floated by National Party list MP Nicola Willis, who intends to write a private member's bill to implement the idea of shortening the summer break from six weeks to five or four.

These bills are debated in Parliament only if selected in the random ballot.

However, Labour MP Jan Tinetti, a former principal, said the summer holiday break was important for both children and teachers.

Advertisement

"The teachers need that time, they need a break," she said.

Tinetti said teachers often spent that extra two weeks preparing for the year ahead.

"They need a good four weeks where they don't have to think about school. It is the only time in the year teachers haven't got the weight of the classroom over them," she said.

"It is mean to take that away from them ... It is ridiculous."

Labour list MP Jan Tinetti. Photo / File
Labour list MP Jan Tinetti. Photo / File

The former Merivale School principal also questioned why it was up to the schools to have to find a solution to childcare during the summer break.

"Why can't we put it back on the employer?" she said.

Most state and integrated schools open this week or next week for the academic year of up to 41 weeks.

National MP Nicola Willis said the reality was that most parents worked, had four weeks' annual leave and obtaining childcare during holidays could pose problems.

Advertisement

"The modern family is juggling childcare and work and the school holidays turn the pressure and costs up a notch," she said.

"Making the summer break just one week shorter could really help."

Most important, Willis said, was that the long summer holiday could harm children's academic achievement.

"Kids' literacy abilities can decline over the six-week break, with one study showing students losing months of progress over summer. Much of term one can be spent getting kids back to where they left off the following year."

National Party list MP Nicola Willis. Photo / File
National Party list MP Nicola Willis. Photo / File

Willis said teachers worked hard and deserved good holidays. They also needed non-contact time for preparation.

Tauranga principals were also not convinced.

Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh said shortening the break reinforced the idea that schools were being seen more as childcare centres.

"We have become social welfare focused," she said. "Kids need a rest, teachers need a rest. I think everybody deserves their holiday, parents included."

Mackintosh understood why parents might warm to the idea, however, she said there needed to be more debate among schools.

She suggested the summer break should be moved to February "because the weather is much hotter in February".

Tahatai Coast School principal Matthew Skilton. Photo / File
Tahatai Coast School principal Matthew Skilton. Photo / File

Western Bay of Plenty Principals' Association president Matthew Skilton said teachers would "do what was right".

"But you can't expect people to work for free," he said.

The Tahatai Coast School principal said there needed to be some sort of remuneration negotiation discussed and questioned whether the intended bill was in the best interest of the pupils or the parents.

Skilton understood pupils' declining literacy abilities during any school break, but hoped parents would encourage reading and writing over the holidays.

Suzie Goile was visiting Tauranga from Hamilton with her children during the school holiday break.

The Hamilton school teacher of 12 years disagreed with shortening the summer holidays.

"I don't think shortening the holidays is going to make much of a difference. If you have got children this time of year at school you're not learning a lot anyway, it is too hot. Too much else is going on."

Goile said there were more important things in the education system that need to be addressed first, including smaller class sizes, more funding and care for children with special needs.

"That is where the focus needs to be, not on shortening the length of holiday," she said.

Teacher Suzie Goile with her children Lily, 1, and Charlie, 7, in Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak
Teacher Suzie Goile with her children Lily, 1, and Charlie, 7, in Mount Maunganui. Photo / George Novak

Teachers' union NZEI also objected to Willis' plan.

National secretary Paul Goulter said he was disappointed the sector hadn't been consulted over the proposed changes.

"Unfortunately she seems to ignore the reality which is that teachers, because of the pressures that are on them, actually need these breaks. Lots of the time these breaks are taken up catching up with work they have been forced to hold over because of the staffing crisis in schools … they don't have time to do this work during the school year."

Additional reporting - NZME

The proposal
What: To shorten the school summer break from six weeks to five or four
Why: Obtaining childcare during holidays could pose problems and the long summer holiday could harm children's academic achievement
Who: National Party list MP Nicola Willis