CHRISTMAS school holidays are being slashed with a council playing the role of Scrooge.

Children could get their shortest holiday in years after Essex County Council decided to get rid of the traditional two week break during the festive period.

Term dates for the academic year 2017/18 have been announced by the local education authority.

They reveal rather than breaking up on Friday, December 15, schools will not finish for another five days until Wednesday, December 20.

Term time will resume on January 2.

It means there will only be 12 days between the end of the autumn term and the start of the Spring term.

In 2016/17 there was a 14-day break and in 2015/16 it was 16 days.

Schools do have the option of using up some of their non-pupil days to extend the break and academies can set their own dates.

But the cut will be a blow to teachers, who ignoring bank holidays and weekends will only get a five day break, and could cause childcare issues for parents, especially if different schools opt for different periods off.

Nardeep Sharma, headteacher at the Colne Community School and College, said: "As an academy we can do anything we want.

"Obviously we try to do what the local authority do.

"Usually what schools can do is make it go up to two weeks by using a couple of training days.

"It will be really interesting when every school becomes an academy in 2020.

"It is going to get more and more different. There is scope for people to do what they want.

"I think the problem you will find is that if you were working in Essex and your partner was working in Suffolk you might have different holidays.

"You do look forward to the two weeks at Christmas every year for the children and parents as well as the staff."

County Hall gave no reasons for the changes.

Ray Gooding, Cabinet member for education, said: "The term dates for 2017-18 have been set following consultation with schools and represent what is considered to be the most appropriate fit across the academic year.

“Schools are able to allocate up to five non-pupil days per year, which they may choose to use either immediately before or after the Christmas and New Year period.”