Comment: Once Upon a Summers Day as the school holidays stretched their way towards a hazy horizon, a child sitting on the beach saw a sign that said: 'Education is the Key to the Future' and was stunned to discover they could not read it.

There had been a time towards the end of the school year when this would have been easy.

The teacher had worked on the whole reading thing with zeal but now it was all gone.

The child new this was going to be a problem in January when the long summer break came to an end and school started again.


The child was already struggling to keep up with lessons and according to the maths he had learned over the last term of the last year it now added up to zilch.

Terry Sarten: British tourists behaving badly
Premium - Terry Sarten: It's time to give 16-year-old New Zealanders the vote
Terry Sarten: Fake it till you make it
Terry Sarten: Nobody needs a car that goes faster than 130km/h

The teach on the beach put the book over the face to allow the ideas to gently soak into the mind.

The weeks of holidays lay like sunny stepping stones towards the horizon.

There was a sudden moment of realisation that all the hours of teaching over the past months would, for some children, simply melt away as the summer seeped in and all that learning would be lost.

This was followed by the palliative thought that most of those kids would have a different teacher in the new year and those who had fallen behind with learning would get to do it all again.

The education researcher had just published another paper that bristled with evidence describing the effect that the long summer break had on some children's learning, especially those living with disadvantage who missed out on the potential to continue learning experiences during the holidays.

Terry Sarten Photo / File
Terry Sarten Photo / File

The researcher despaired for these children, as these gaps in life learning could become a chasm impossible to cross in future years.


The bureaucrat sat on the beach reading the research papers on how children's learning gets lost in the long summer holidays and pondered how to convince the minister that this was important.

This would be difficult as ministers felt the long summer breaks were actually a boon for forgetting. Summer time was a space in which people could forget tricky things like electoral promises, policy decisions and instead focus on simple things - beach and barbecues.

The minister lay on the beach and pondered the size of their education portfolio.

They watched the tide going out and for a brief moment understood how learning could just recede, then return only to go away again just like summer. The idea of dividing the school year up with regular two-week breaks appeared like a heat haze hallucination on the horizon.

This morphed into a mirage as the thought of telling teachers that their first duty was to learning not to having a 6 weeks holiday over summer.

That would be like poking a tiger with a sharp stick. Parents would be all for it and welcome the idea as they struggle to juggle working to pay the bills while warding off the boredom that infects many children after 3 weeks with no school.

The minister thought the hard bit would be convincing schools and teachers to accept losing what is regarded as a major perk in a job that is often demanding and stressful but then lots of professions are demanding and stressful – doctors and nurses don't suddenly all go on holiday for 6 weeks over summer.

The minister felt that teachers had certainly learned something that others had missed in school.

The child ran down the beach kicking sand in the ministers face in passing. The bureaucrat laughed to see such fun the and the researcher looked on with gloom.

Terry Sarten (aka Tel) satirista, musician and social worker. Feedback: