The corridors of most schools across Ireland will be empty of students tomorrow evening on the last day of the school academic year.
As students throughout Galway celebrate the start of their summer holidays, there are also working parents throughout the county who too have been counting down the days - a deadline in which they must finalise last-minute camps, activities, holidays, and child-minding arrangements to fill the nine weeks ahead.
Summer holidays are a far cry from those rare old days when children were expected to help on the land, saving hay, stacking turf, and harvesting fruit and vegetables for the winter ahead.
Those days are irrelevant now, and today it can be a frustrating and expensive time for parents who would naturally prefer, if possible, that their children could enjoy that idealistic summer immortalised in books - playing and relaxing in the sun, days at the beaches, water fights in the back yard, and playing with neighbouring friends and family long after the sun has set. Such freedom does not exist today, and fewer parents than before are able to devote the entire holiday to their children because of work commitments.
For working parents of young children particularly it often requires considerable manoeuvering and calling in favours so their children are looked after. Not only can it be a long time for parents to ensure their children are safely and happily occupied, but also for children who, after six weeks, are often eager to resume school friendships and routines.
In the meantime working parents can be expected to pay anything up to €170 a week for children's activities that are usually limited to hours between 10am and 3pm - when most working people do not finish work before 5pm.
For many children the last couple of weeks drags - and for parents juggling work commitments. Perhaps it is time for schools to become more flexible. While not advocating shortening school holidays, perhaps a rearrangement is possible - an extra week at Easter, an extra Friday over the several Bank Holidays. Such extensions throughout the year should ensure teachers need not be emotionally exhausted by the time summer arrives, and similarly children should not be as tired. Knocking two weeks off the summer and spreading it over the rest of the year would please many - not only those who can ill afford the cost of childcare, but also the logistics of keeping children entertained for a single eight or nine week block. Isn’t it always about finding the happy balance?