Work VS Play: The Easter Blues
Despiting Kris Chocolate Russians, Children would rather be at school.
English schoolchildren enjoy 13 weeks of holiday a year.
To jaded office workers (and perhaps the Green Party) that may sound ideal.
Indeed, few children complain that they spend too much time away from exams, homework and the possibility of detention.
Yet a new research paper suggests that maybe they should: for children are happier when at school than during the holidays.
The Easter break, which begins this week at many schools, is the gloomiest time of the year.
The analysis looks at data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study, which has tracked the ups and downs of 40,000 households since 2009.
As children are surveyed at different times of the year, Gundi Knies, the author, is able to compare their cheeriness across the calendar.
She finds that younger children are happier than teenagers, and that teenage girls are moodier than teenage boys.
The data offer a clue as to what explains the holiday glumness.
One possibility is that it is caused by a mild form of separation anxiety.
Ms Knies notes that although children's reported satisfaction with their family does not decline during the holidays, their satisfaction with their friends does.
Distance may breed discontent.
Another reason may be that, when not distracted by schoolwork, children spend more time in front of a screen, which research suggests makes them less happy.
And many extra-curricular activities are suspended, which means less time playing football or hanging out at drama club.
“Everyone needs something meaningful to fill their day,“ says MsKnies.
Unemployed adults are less happy than their peers.
Crucially, those children who were on holiday abroad would not have been surveyed, so the ones included in the study were those left hanging around at home.
As for why Easter holidays are worst of all, one possible explanation jumps out: exams.
The main ones tend to be in the summer term, so the Easter break is spent swotting up (or feeling guilty about not doing so) .
Steve Jackson, the head teacher of a school in Somerset, frets that the pressure piled on children by exams has “increased exponentially over the years“, to the extent that they may now be damaging to young people's health.
Foreign jaunts are more common in the summer; Christmas brings families together in the winter.
Easter eggs, it seems, are insufficient compensation for the horrors of revision.