A large majority of teachers in Flanders oppose the shortening of the summer holidays that has been implemented in French-speaking Belgium, according to a survey by the largest education trade union, the Christian COC.
The survey among 5,300 members of the COC showed that 78% of the respondents are not in favour of the summer holidays being shortened by two weeks, which would be added to other shorter holidays.
"The result is clear: there is no support for a shortened summer holiday," the secretary-general of COC Koen Van Kerkhoven told De Morgen.
The survey followed the request by the region's Education Minister Ben Weyts to umbrella organisations, unions and parents' associations to come up with a position on the possible shortening of summer holidays by the end of the school year.
Broad support needed
Weyts' request came in light of research that showed long holidays are particularly harmful to vulnerable children, as well as the decision to shorten the summer holidays in French-speaking schools in Belgium, where starting from this summer, the school year will last until 7 July and start a week earlier in August, with a week being added to both the autumn and Carnival holidays.
"We expect these recommendations in June. We have always said that a possible reorganisation of the school holiday calendar requires broad and strong support, in the first place within education, but also outside of education," Weyts' spokesperson told The Brussels Times.
He recognised that the fact that most of society is used to the current school calendar means the shifting around of holidays will have consequences for all sectors and all families and that the broad support is not there yet. "Surveys of parents also show that this issue is very divisive."
If implemented, the shortening of holidays would apply to primary and secondary education, the Centres for Student Guidance (CLBs), part-time art education, adult education and higher education in Flanders.
Increased workload and lack of rest
Flanders is already facing a teacher shortage, with many schools struggling to fill their vacancies. Unions fear that shortened summer holidays will reduce the appeal of the profession.
"Principals are worried that even more teachers will trade teaching for the private sector and that teaching will become even less attractive," Van Kerkhoven said.
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Moreover, both headmasters and teachers fear that this arrangement would mean they are not able to get enough rest, as between two to three weeks of their nine-week summer holiday period is spent going over work from the previous school year and preparing for the upcoming year, and that their workload during term times will increase.
The survey highlighted that teachers feel a more targeted solution, such as the summer schools introduced during the coronavirus crisis, is needed for vulnerable children who are affected by the long period away from school.