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 160.

    @stevio What a stupid suggestion?? How are teachers supposed to plan if half the class are missing because that's their day off??? And yes, some teachers do spend a lot of time planning, contrary to what the vast majority of the public seem to think!

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Well the Welsh seem to have the problem sorted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    To all the people who think that they can jet away on the cheap in future because of this absurd proposal, engage your brain!

    To all people without kids who enjoy jetting off offpeak on the cheap, well, enjoy it while you can!

    Increased fares will not span the six week holiday, they will span the longer period of increased demand.

    The only winners will be the airlines/travelagents!

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    The school terms and holidays should be 4 terms a year with only 2 week breaks in between. Children forget a lot of their learning during the long 6 week break in the summer, so this would help to go a long way to resolve the problem. Its time that education came into the 21st century

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Personally I think the school year is Arse-Backward, after all Christmas is fixed, so is the Summer holidays and the October & Whitsun holidays are fixed, however the most important time of Year for older students studying GCSE's and A-Levels is Easter, it's a pain in the butt, just because the church declares it is Easter time the holidays change, they need to be fixed so it is fair on everyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.


    If as a family you can 'afford' to go away, then clearly you either earn too much or get too many benefits. The unwashed masses are not supposed to have holidays, only the corporate elite are allowed those.

    Know your place, it's chained to the grindstone for the benefit of the corrupt elite - you are a commodity, a resource, to be used, abused, then discarded at their whim

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    If I buy a product from the supermarket, all identical products are priced at the same price, even if I happen to purchase the last one on the shelf.

    Why are airline companies allowed to sell the similar seats at higher prices just because there happens to be fewer seats left or the date is getting closer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Changing the length of holidays will mean changing the teaching contract. The county councils determine the holidays for their schools and they have chosen to retain the usual format. Leicestershire had a different pattern and Scotland too. (Same no of days.) If teachers are now employed by the school this could change in Eng. but changing the contract will involve the teaching unions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    This is just meddlimg for the sake of it. Gove is trying to wind up teachers again. He should resign.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    If schools are allowed to set their own holidays, it will affect not only family holidays but organisations like the Scouts and Guides who might not be able to organise camps for longer than a weekend as school holidays won't match.
    I am going to Kenya for 4 weeks this summer as part of a Scout County project: this sort of thing won't be able to happen in the future with differing school holidays.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    So when is the MP's holiday to be reduced?? Teachers work hard for relatively little pay as compared to skilled workers in the private sector. Teachers receive no bonuses, and so a long holiday is considered a 'perk'. If this was to be eroded then I can see a lot of problems ahead as staff leave in their droves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Finland the best education system in Europe has a 12 Week Summer Holiday and Shorter Holidays at other times, is composed of non selective comprehensives, has no external exams ,very few private elitist schools ,teachers are respected by politicians and their advice listened to and acted on.

    Perhaps Michael Gove hasn't visited Finland for ideas relying more on La La Land instead

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    I have 2 children at different schools not through choice and I work at a different school every holiday we go to my elderly mums miles away from where we live so I need all our holiday dates to coincide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    'Maybe in reality neither do you but used a fallacy to have a pop at the teaching profession?'

    ...and where did I have a pop at the teaching profession?

    Although I did recently have to point out to my daughters General Studies teacher that VAT is currently 20% not the the 17.5% she was teaching them just 2 months before the GCSE. Sad but true !

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Teachers should be given 6 weeks holiday a year to take whenever they want. During holidays for the kids they should be running holiday clubs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Sorry, but what is the point of making things complicated? A decision should be made in principal if it's best to have 4 holidays of 2 weeks or another combination and then term dates set across the board. Setting dates per school just serves to benefit the teachers and not the families or kids surely...
    Why meddle with the system? I did O Levels, A Levels and had set term dates and I was fine...

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    How about parity with MP's holidays and wages?
    I believe in Holland they allocate hoildays on a 'rolling district basis' so everyone one, ver a period of time has the plum hoiday dates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.


    Be a teacher then if its that easy! What 'real world' do you live in that I don't?

    I actually think that six weeks is too long for a single holiday, students go backwards in that time and progress is often lost. This hits students from lower income families worse than middle class and better off students, increasing the achievement gap there is so much focus on narrowing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Just now

    My partner is a teacher and term time she is up marking course work at 4am then does an eight hour day

    It would help if she started before 3am

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    My partner is a teacher and term time she is up marking course work at 4am then does an eight hour day

    Any teacher who regularly stays up until 4am to mark coursework must be shockingly disorganised. Perhaps she should try teaching herself some time management skills...


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