Money Wellness
A group of laughing children sit in the grass with a childminder
category iconcost of living
calendar icon29 Feb 2024

What would cutting the summer holidays to four weeks mean for childcare costs?

Summer holidays should be shortened, a new report from educational charity The Nuffield Foundation recommends. The report is set to be published next month, providing results on how the UK can overcome post-pandemic learning inequalities.

One of the proposals from the report is to cut the six-week summer holiday to four weeks and extend half-term holidays from one to two weeks, according to The Guardian.

Lee Elliot Major, one of the report’s writers, said that the reform would be a cost-effective way to combat a growing educational divide in England. The professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter said, “Spreading school holidays more evenly across the year makes complete educational sense: improving the wellbeing of pupils and the working lives of teachers at no extra cost, balancing out childcare costs for parents, and potentially boosting academic results for many children.”

The proposal would also follow the Welsh government’s choice to cut the summer break to five weeks and extend the first half-term in autumn for the next academic year.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:  “There is some evidence that suggests changes could be beneficial to pupils and parents, but other research has been far less conclusive. It’s important that the impact of any changes are properly considered and must not be rushed into.”

While the intention behind this proposal is to provide much-needed help to bridge the educational divide, how it will help parents struggling with childcare costs is a big question. Even if costs were spread evenly over the year, parents would still need to budget for the same amount of time.

Last year, charity Coram Family and Childcare found that a British family will pay on average £943 for six weeks of holiday childcare for a school-age child, a 3% increase from 2022.

Need help with childcare costs?

Some schemes are available to help cut the huge cost of childcare during the holidays:

  • You may be able to get help through benefits for Ofsted-registered childcare, which might include holiday camps and other holiday activities. Check online if childcare is registered with Ofsted
  •  Parents across the UK can get up to 30 hours of free childcare per week if you’ve got a three-four-year-old (two year olds will be included from April).The government funding entitlement is for 1,140 hours per year. This means that for a full 30-hour week, funding will only cover 38 weeks.
  • If you’re working and on Universal Credit, you can reclaim some of your childcare costs up to a maximum of £951 for one child and £1630 for two or more children up to the age of 16. Claim back these costs through your online account.
  • You might qualify for Tax-Free Childcare, a government-backed scheme which helps working parents with the cost of childcare. The scheme, which launched in 2017, gives eligible families an extra 20% towards their childcare costs. It’s designed so that for every 80p you put in, the government will add 20p – so it effectively gives you basic-rate tax back on what you pay (hence the scheme's name).
  • If you’re entitled to tax free childcare and not on benefits, you’ll be able to get a top up of up to £2,000 per year, per child until the 1 September after your child turns 11 (or 16 for disabled children – and you can claim up to £4,000 for them).
  • The childcare voucher scheme is closed, but if you joined a childcare voucher scheme on or before 4 October 2018, you might be able to keep getting vouchers.  



Avatar of Lydia Bell-Jones

Lydia Bell-Jones

With a background in banking, Lydia has been writing professionally for over five years. She is passionate about helping people improve their personal finances and has a particular interest in the connection between money and mental health.

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