I feel I may be swimming against the tide a bit here but am I the only parent happy that the school holidays are at an end? Many of my Facebook friends who are parents of school-aged children have been posting pictures and comments featuring the last few golden days of the summer holidays, lamenting the fact that they’re about to lose their children to the world of education for another academic year. Rather than sadness, my feelings are of relief that I made it through relatively unscathed!
Earlier today, whilst locking myself in the bathroom to get a few minutes peace (it didn’t work by the way) I had a chuckle to myself; my Twitter feed, rather ironically, featured several blog posts about ‘ME’ time. Coming at the end of a long, fantastically busy, although, I have to say, very good summer break – ‘ME’ time is a bit thin on the ground in our house at the moment (I’m writing this after dark when I really should be in bed myself!). And living where we do means that the return to school isn’t quite as straightforward as you might imagine. It’s not just a case of taking them all to school and dropping them off at the gates until you return mid afternoon to collect them.
Here in Gibraltar, we have an eight-week-long summer break from school. Today is the day when many (not all) children in Gibraltar returned to school. So, this morning the alarm went off at 7am for the first time in eight weeks and we set off for the first school run of the new academic year. In preparation, new school haircuts were done yesterday, the last of the sew-in name tapes were attached to uniforms last night and this morning new shoes squeaked along the road to school.
‘You lucky girl!’ you might think, ‘time for a cup of tea and to put your feet up’, but alas no. This is Gibraltar and although I do love it so, there are a few quirks about life here which if I was in charge I’d like to tweak. One thing being school intakes in September. Today was the start of the school year here, and yes I did do the school run, but for just one out of my three children and just for half a day. Tomorrow a second child goes to school and finally on Friday, all three. For some poor parents the whole sorry saga of starting school won’t begin until the middle of next week!
So that’s my first gripe, staggered start dates. Now please bear in mind that this is a completely one-sided view here. I know there must be reasons for this occurrence which help the teaching staff but for parents, especially those who work and require help with childcare, this must make things very difficult. How do those who have no support network cope?
The second thing I’d like to change is summer hours, as I’ve mentioned previously in this post, during the hottest weeks of the summer and autumn terms, school finishes any time between 11:45am and 12:45pm depending on the age of your child. In other words, that eight-week-long summer break is book-ended by a few weeks of half days. I totally understand that it gets too hot in the classrooms for children to concentrate as the schools aren’t equipped with air conditioning. I also understand that many government employees work summer hours and it wouldn’t be fair to deprive the teachers of this perk if almost everyone else in the public sector (apart from the emergency services and Health Authority workers) benefited from it. After all, if I’d spent all year looking after other people’s children and had no break between Christmas and Easter or between Easter and summer (as is the situation here) I’d want something in return! BUT it really is a pain in the neck for parents, no sooner are you back from the school morning run than it seems you are heading back out again to pick them up. I don’t have the solution, I just know that the current situation, although a long standing one, makes things tricky.
So, there you have it, a staggered start to the beginning of term and then they only go for half a day, but then there’s the issue of next week. Next week in Gibraltar we have two bank holidays, one on Monday and another on Thursday. Both are for important reasons; Monday’s is a one-off event to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Evacuation of Gibraltar when the civilian population was forced out of their homes and shipped overseas during World War 2. Thursday’s is to celebrate Gibraltar National Day and the nation’s right to self determination. Both are hugely important occasions to mark, and I whole-heartedly support them, I’m not in anyway criticizing their existence. It’s just that it does mean yet another disrupted school week… school on Tuesday, Wednesday and then Friday. Should the autumn term start date be moved back until after National Day perhaps?
As a result of the aforementioned situation school full days (ie 9am – 3:15pm or later) will not begin until Monday 14th September. So, on that day, ladies and gentlemen, after several false starts, you may catch sight of me cartwheeling down Main Street enjoying my ‘ME’ time and perhaps feeling a little bit guilty about wishing away the late summer days with my three wonderful, energetic, challenging and exhausting boys!
PS I do know just how blessed and privileged I am to have my boys (and I love them to bits) but crikey it’s been a long summer and I’m just about ready for another holiday!