Teachers' 'chaos' warning for schools setting own terms

Holiday flights The summer holidays could operate to a different timetable in different schools

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Allowing all state schools in England to set their own term times could cause "chaos" for families booking holidays, a teachers' union is warning.

Plans were announced on Monday to allow all schools to vary term dates, a right already held by academies.

But the National Union of Teachers says it will cause problems for families with children in different schools.

Term times should be decided by heads and not councils, says the Department for Education.

"It is right that all schools are free to set their own term dates in the interests of parents and pupils," said an education department spokesman.

In Wales, there is a shift in the opposite direction, with plans to give the government powers to set the same holiday times for all state schools in the country, to avoid differences for families with children in different authorities.

There is currently no legal duty on councils or governing bodies in Wales to work together on holiday times.

Holiday savings

From September 2015, all state schools in England will be able to decide their own term dates, under plans for more school autonomy announced by the government.

Start Quote

The changes have meant we're able to have equalised blocks of working which is much better for curriculum planning and it's much better in terms of levels of student and staff exhaustion”

End Quote Ros McMullen Principal, David Young Community Academy

It could mean that more state schools switch from the long, six-week summer holidays.

Christine Blower, head of the NUT, said it would not mean saving money for families.

"Holiday companies will almost certainly just expand the period over which they charge premium rates so there will be no benefit to families, or indeed the general public who will have fewer weeks of less expensive holidays," she said.

Head teachers warned that parents with children in different schools would still expect local schools to agree common dates so that families could plan holidays together.

Schools can already vary the shape of the school day, but they will also be able to change the length of their terms.

Labour's education spokesman Stephen Twigg announced last month that a future Labour government would extend these academy flexibilities to all state schools.

It means that both the coalition government and opposition are pushing for greater powers to be devolved to individual schools.

Local co-ordination

The plans put forward in the Deregulation Bill would mean schools that are not academies would not have to accept the term dates set by local authorities.

A majority of secondary schools are now academies, but most primary schools have not adopted academy status - so this would represent an extra level of flexibility for them.

They would still have to operate within a legal limit of a minimum of 190 school days each year.

Start Quote

The problem will come if no one is responsible for creating a co-ordinated calendar for an area and it turns into a free-for-all”

End Quote Brian Lightman Association of School and College Leaders

Among the schools that have experimented with term lengths is the David Young Community Academy in Leeds, which has a year of seven shorter terms and holidays that are not longer than four weeks.

Principal Ros McMullen said that cutting the summer break and extending other holidays was "very popular because of course there are cheaper holidays for families".

She also said there were academic gains. "The changes have meant we're able to have equalised blocks of working which is much better for curriculum planning and it's much better in terms of levels of student and staff exhaustion."

The Boulevard Academy in Hull is going to cut the summer holiday from six weeks to four weeks.

"It is right that all schools are free to set their own term dates in the interests of parents and pupils," said a spokesman for the Department for Education.

Head teachers' leader Brian Lightman said: "Most schools choose to follow the local authority calendar because they know that it's better for parents who have children in different schools and teachers who want their holidays to coincide with their children's.

"The problem will come if no one is responsible for creating a co-ordinated calendar for an area and it turns into a free-for-all.

"Somebody needs to take the lead locally on deciding term dates and it makes sense for this to be the local authority, even if schools aren't required by law to follow it," said Mr Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    In my day, exams were held in the last couple of weeks running up to the summer break.

    If the holidays are moveable, does it mean some schools will have exams before other schools?

    I see the availability of exam papers on ebay going up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    109. blackie1947 - I think you're spot on. 6 weeks is too long, we have had three summers of poor weather on the trot and my kids, who don't dislike school but dont crave it either are bored senseless of 6 weeks stuck in the house with no means of paying for an overpriced holiday or there being other indoor activities (out of the rain) to break the monotony.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    To the few silly anti-teacher ranters (look at the lowest rated comments) - the education system should be based on what's right for the children, not what's right for anyone else. You mean to tell me you never enjoyed a long summer break when you were kids? How unsurprisingly selfish of you. Lowest rated comments read: lowest rated IQs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Easyjet flights to innsbruck about £500 feb12,last day of term 14/02 price on 15/02 £2000.
    This is a great idea and will give parents an oportunity to have a family holiday at a reasonable cost.A random week in winter,late summer etc would outwit the holiday companies,airlines etc.
    The tories have made ordinary people poorer and this would give them a break.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Longer/shorter holidays needs to be in the best interests of pupils alone.

    However, inconsistent school holidays which put strain on family life should be avoided. I have one son at high school, another shortly at a special school, two at a primary school and a wife in another state secondary. With the few weeks I get a year as a "normal" employee, I want us all to be together!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    If your children are at different schools then you may not be able to book a good holiday deal as their term times don't match up. Once Gove has finished changing everything he can with education, it is going to take a long time to put it right!

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    As somebody who lives in a rural town within 2 miles of three other counties this could be a challenge for local families.

    Schools are no longer required to accept younger siblings (itself leading to problems in terms of travel) and many households have children being taught in two different counties to this one.

    Come school holiday time some families will be put into an impossible position.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    A good job we don't have Industry any more! and how can we align the kids with the farming year any longer?
    Factories not around, so don't need to close during the school's summer holidays. Can the kiddies be let off for second cut haymaking, stone picking or ragwort pulling? Let us remember what school children exist for. How can adults plan their holidays to ensure no awful children around?

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Does everyone really think that Teachers work 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday, with a one hour lunch break and have 10 weeks HOLIDAY a year ?If that was the case why is there a shortage of candidates wanting to join the profession ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    So glad my kids are all finished with school, before they introduced Academies, frustrated teachers, free schools and qualifications rows. Now they added weird holidays.
    Someone get rid of this government before they wreck everything.
    So glad I'm no longer a teacher!

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    This confirms Grove is off his head. it bad enough sorting out child care when all children are off together but trying you have three children off at different times is sheer madness, the man wants locking up and needs medical help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    My understanding is that teachers are paid pro-rata and their salary is paid over twelve months (that's what a teacher told me). If they are going to reduce holidays, will they be entitled to more pay?

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Not all schools have the exact same holiday timing or lengths of school "break". It was reasonably close for summer holidays however here where I am.

    Why is it that a reasonably stable school platform has to change for changes sake, from stability to chaos?

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Both my husband and I work full time and already never spend any time together so that we can cover as many holidays as we can - for the rest we use holiday clubs. These clubs are run for 5 weeks in the summer and 2 weeks at Easter so that everyone can use them - what happens when I have weeks of holiday to cover and no childcare available??

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    "Allowing all state schools in England to set their own term times could cause "chaos" for families booking holidays"

    Is this an admission that education in the UK is essentially 'daycare'?


  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Gove really is a complete numpty. Libertarian choices for holidays, profit based education etc will not raise standards instead it will cause confusion for higher education and create local anomolies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    @85.BadlyPackedKebab Yes, my written English is not brilliant, I’m the first to admit that! I don't, unlike your good self, have problems with the concept of differentiating between coursework and homework. Maybe in reality neither do you but used a fallacy to have a pop at the teaching profession?

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Yes please keep the holidays the same. Its easier for those of us who dont have kids and means we know when to avoid holidaying around other peoples brats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Sadly holiday companies are far too savvy for this and will simply increase the prices for a longer period.
    My brother has children in two authorities that are next to each other their holidays do not tie up and it causes absolute nightmares for childcare. A poorly thought out policy that needs to be scrapped. The simple truth is most schools especially primaries will stick to the current system

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    No matter what the issue schools as a system of education are the problem.It is only the fact people are used to it that they fail to change it.Free child care to get them out of the mills is why they were created. Everything has changed, we no longer need herd based education. Modern facilities and tech mean we can educate individuals, to their ability and speed, not that of the fits no one herd.


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