Reader responses: should we change the school term dates?


The beautiful Bay of Islands.

Pushing the school holiday out into February is an idea floated by United Future leader Peter Dunne. He argues that hot stuffy classrooms make kids grumpy and he’s suggesting the main school break be from mid-February to mid-March.

thisNZlife thinks it’s well worth talking about and so do many of you judging by your feedback below.

-Kate Coughlan

Read my full e-newsletter here

I have sweltered in this heat in Gisborne.
Our hottest months are February and I remember how killing it was in my school life.
We should be like Singapore and have summer holidays. Maybe even like New Caledonia opening shops earlier in the day, having a siesta and working later even by an hour of two.

February is a much better month for everyone to chill out and have fun. To be able to send all worries and cares out an open window to be sizzled in the bright February sunshine. How brilliant would that be. A couple of days break off over Christmas and New Year is all that is needed for people to share the celebration; with a day to recover! Take a look around at other countries throughout the world; they have their summer holidays in the middle of summer so they can rejuvenate. There, I’ve said my bit.

As Mum to seven how I have often wished we had the summer holidays later.
-Rae Patten

Ngā mihi o te pō
As a retired teacher, I’m totally opposed to changing the school terms for many good reasons.
Firstly, having just a couple of days off at Christmas and New Year does not give families the quality time they need.
People are tired after the razzamatazz of the Silly Season leading up to Christmas. They need a full week’s downtime using annual leave and statutory holidays to recuperate. Many businesses close during this time, so it makes sense to take a family holiday then. Otherwise, employees who only have statutory holidays off have to apply for annual leave or leave without pay.
Secondly, many children look forward to school after a 6-week break. They are rested, relaxed and their energy level for learning is restored. Many parents I know – especially mothers with bored, restless kids – look forward to school starting in late January/early February too!
Thirdly, starting school in late January or early February is when weather is more settled. That means solid blocks of time to teach sports and swimming in school pools. The open-air pools have had time to warm up. Children do not get cold waiting their turn to enter the pool. They also do not catch summer colds when the weather is warm and dry.
Lastly, lessons can take place outside in the shade, e.g., recreational reading, science (aka nature study), social application maths about measurement and area, etc.
Climate change is making weather so unpredictable! It’s best, in my opinion, to not assume weather patterns and temperatures are going to be predictable and consistent year after year. Changing school terms to suit the weather is too risky.
As a wise proverb states with good reason: ‘ Leave well alone. ‘
-Rosemary Cole

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I agree. A few days for Christmas (as they do in Europe) then our real summer holidays in February.The seasons are changing -we need to adapt.
-Maureen Hood

I absolutely agree with changing the school terms with the children having holidays from the start of February. Getting the kids back to school right now is wrong as they can’t focus with the heat and I’m sure the teachers are struggling with the heat also and probably feeling a bit cheated about the bad weather they too had during their summer break.
The idea of taking the pressure off Christmas and holiday planning is very valid. I remember a few years ago trying to get organised to get to the beach with my husband and children on Boxing Day for a 4 week stint, I also worked in a school. The pressure was on and the message of Christmas was lost as I charged around madly trying to get Christmas shopping done, not forgetting presents for the teachers as the school year was ending together with shopping to stock up the caravan and pack to head away to the beach. Friends wanted to catch up “before we went on holiday” so the social calendar was hectic. The supermarkets were manic with 80% of the local population trying to do the same. Christmas rolled around with a quick visit to the parents, attend a Church service if I was lucky but we were unable to stay and enjoy parents company because we had to head to the beach to grab every moment of my husband’s brief summer leave from his employment and justify the hefty camp fees we paid annually. I was wrung out after all the stress and pressure that was on me and the first week of the holiday resulted in plenty of nana naps just to catch up with myself again! On top of all this the kids and all their friends spent half of their holidays stuck in the caravan playing board games and watching DVD’s because the weather was so shocking.
This would have been so much simpler knowing that we just had Christmas approaching, the shopping would have been done with more ease, (the teachers would have got nicer gifts!) and we could have stayed on with our parents for a couple of days enjoying quality family time together which really is a good part of the Christmas message. The Summer holiday could have been prepared with ease and the kids could have spent it outside playing, swimming, picnicking and doing water sports with us and their friends. Now isn’t that what a Kiwi Summer is all about?
Thanks for starting this important debate – I’m right behind you!
-Chris Cleave

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I am very much in favour of the school term being changed over summer to February but apparently it would affect their exams like NCEA especially etc so a good school teacher friend of mine tells me.

I so agree. Changing the school summer holidays to start sometime in February is a brilliant idea. Not only will the children be happier, so will parents and school staff. I think it’s a win-win idea. If folk are concerned about the Xmas holiday time then maybe there could just be the week off between Christmas Day and The Day after New Year’s Day, and one less week for the summer holidays.
Our weather patterns are changing rapidly, December and January are still cool and often rainy. Long holidays during this time have the potential to become disastrous – rained out campgrounds, too cold to swim in the ocean without wet suits. And then it gets hot just as soon as school starts again. Our children need to have fun summer holidays, camping, swimming, running outdoors and just enjoying themselves. They don’t need to be forced to stay indoors, watching TV, playing on their personal devices. Good old outdoor fun has always been the way of this nation, let’s bring it back.
-Sue Marsh

As a former teacher I’m with you all the way on this one on February holidays. It does mean, of course, that all employers have to buy into the change so that parents are free to enjoy the time with their kids.
I’m sure there must be a way round this – just haven’t thought it through yet.
Will keep thinking.
-Jess Tooker

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Couldn’t agree more that summer holidays in Feb make perfect sense. Enjoy your break with family. Keep up the stunning work with my favourite magazine.
-Karen Holland

I agree wholeheartedly that the big break be in February. I also think however, that the week between Christmas and New Year which is often only 3 working week days, could be part of the break so families/people have time to travel and spend Christmas and/or New Year together.

Actually, I think we need to move the months one month forward – so January should be February! Would mean having the same month twice one year! ha ha…
-Alison Trengrove

Yes- should be moved to February. I have been in NZ for 7 years and I always say this to my family overseas that best time of the year is February!

Just finished working in a very hot classroom, no air conditioning, fan going & windows open. Our yr 2 & 3 class were hot & bothered , tired & learning is not easy in this environment.
Temp was 34 degrees outside when I walked home after my morning’s work.
Totally agree that we send our students back in the hottest part of the year, we are lucky
our primary school still has a swimming pool.
-Deirdre Karn

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