While school children and sixth form students enjoy six or so weeks off through the summer, their school will probably be anything but quiet and empty. Along with summer classes possibly being run, there’s likely to be a multitude of repair and maintenance jobs going on to prepare the buildings for the rigours of the next academic year.
This is something that may be somewhat overlooked by those – including some government officials – who advocate a shorter summer break. While there may be a case for pupils having less time off over the summer in return for perhaps more time off during other times of the year, the need to make time for some often involved replacement and maintenance work is, if anything, becoming more acute.
The long summer break
The irony of a long school summer holiday extending from late July through to early September is that it was originally so children could actually go to work. Along with the general timing of a typical school day from 9.00am to 3.30pm, the lengthy summer break dates back to the 19th century and is due to the Victorians and the agricultural timetable.
At that time, children were needed to help gather the harvest and perform other farming related work during the busy summer months so it was a case of ‘school’s out for summer’ – as pop musician Alice Cooper sang back in the 1970s.
This principle also applies to the other school holidays such as the Easter break; at this time children were needed to help during the busy planting season.
What work is undertaken in school during the holiday?
There’s a lot more to summer school maintenance than a quick lick of paint on the classroom walls or the football pitch goalmouths being re-seeded. A multitude of repairs, replacements and installations are being undertaken on schools all over the country while the pupils take it easy.
It’s a lot easier for contractors to work at a deserted school premises during the holidays rather than during term time with possibly hundreds of pupils and staff milling around.
Repairs and renovations
– roofs need repairing and maybe replacing, plumbing might need attention, and maybe a whole replacement heating system is being installed.
Perhaps the odd cracked window needs replacing or hundreds of them need cleaning?
Electrical repairs, inspections and installations
The ever-more stringent electrical safety regulations and more electrically-powered technology being used in schools make for a busy time for electrical contractors during school holidays. For example, with the increased use of IT in learning and pastoral activities and the need to update it from time to time, it makes for more electrical-related work.
– several computers interlinked and connected to the Internet mean they require networking through professionally installed cabling. It’s a specialised task and may feature fibre optics and the need to run cabling effectively outside to connect IT in different buildings.
Fibre optic cabling
– often used as a cabling infrastructure backbone connecting up various parts of a school or other educational premises such as a multi-site campus, installing fibre optic cabling is highly specialised work and far easier to undertake when the buildings are quieter.
– full electrical safety inspections, rewiring, replacing lighting, ensuring equipment and infrastructure meets the latest regulations sees many experienced electrical contractors’ vehicles parked in school car parks during the summer break while their experts attend to these involved tasks.
Other electrical work
– air conditioning installations and maintenance, altering electrical provisions when, for example, departments move into new buildings or extend make for plenty of work for the appropriate electrical professional in a school.
The summer holiday; inconvenient for some
When the children are off school, for working parents it often means increased childcare costs and a hike in holiday prices. So in this way the possibility of school summer holidays being reduced in length could be warmly welcomed, and there are moves afoot to make changes.
Some independent academies are already changing their term dates, a school in Yorkshire had planned to reduce the summer holiday by a week but dropped the idea in response to criticisms from teachers’ unions and parents. Government officials have advocated giving pupils shorter but more frequent holidays to break the academic year up a bit more.
Should this happen, spare a thought for the plethora of contractors working against the clock to ensure school is fully ready for the return of the pupils for the new academic year.