WEST Craven's schools will empty today (Friday) for nine weeks as pupils embark on a marathon summer holiday.

And families across the district will take advantage of "cheap holidays" in off peak periods for the last time.

The next school year will not begin until Monday, September 4, as the area's school holidays comes into line with the rest of the country.

The move which met with widespread opposition from parents, teachers and councillors will mean the end of the traditional Wakes Week, which characterised East Lancashire's mill towns.

The area's schools traditionally broke up almost a month before others in the county and returned to classes in early August, before taking a half-term holiday in mid-September.

The custom stems from the 19th century, when mill owners in a town or district would all stop production at the same time to give their workers a holiday.

Many shops would close and the streets would be almost deserted as families left for the seaside, but the custom carried through to modern times.

In 2003, the Herald reported that retail trade still halved in the area during "Barlick fortnight".

Objections to the standardisation of school holidays and term dates across the 11 education districts of Lancashire centre around the loss of cheap, "off-peak", early July holidays for families, which, it is feared, could also cause higher absence rates as parents took their children out of school.

Concerns have also been raised that the extended break will lead to increased juvenile nuisance problems, which police have made efforts to address with diversionary activities, and difficulties for youngsters returning to education after a long period of abstinence.

A last ditch attempt to prevent the ending of Wakes Week was made by opposition councillors, including Barnoldswick representative David Whipp, but the move was forced through by Lancashire County Council's ruling Labour group last June.

Some East Lancashire factories will change the dates of their summer shutdown to fit in with the new term times.