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 240.

    It seems to me it is the teaching unions that are the main cause of chaos these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Why do I not feel sorry for the poor teachers that only get 14 weeks of holiday per year.
    I think a much better idea would be to have 8 weeks in the Summer??? not reduce 6 to 4 and then have fewer longer breaks when you normally dont go on holidays and cut out half terms altogether.
    Or even better, just have 5 weeks holidays as per most workers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.


    This is the problem we have as an electorate - we have the nasty party, the useless party, the 'who are you' party, and coming over the horizon we have the rabid party.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    why is it that we have to accept the opinion of Teachers Unions. Teachers should not be allowed to spew their left wing opinions on our children. They have a vested interest in the status quo of protecting their 20 weeks holiday. They think the school system was created just to employ them instead of its principle aim of educating our children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    "Just over £7.69ph is what my partner gets for teaching based on the 60 hours a week she works."

    ...60 hours a week, eh? Pull the other one!

    Loads of people in "the real world" have to do preparation/work at home in evenings etc.; we don't get to bill that time as "work", and we don't get "free periods", "inset days" or 12 weeks paid annual leave either! Or leave "the office" at 3:30pm...

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    The reality is that although schools will have the 'right' to set there own term dates, they will still cooperate with other local schools to ensure they are in-line - Governors, Parents and Teachers would expect nothing less.

    A bit rich the opposition commenting negatively on this proposal though as I'm pretty sure they tinkered with this themselves whilst in power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.


    My teacher wife has had enough"

    What's she going to do? Take the early retirement that those in the private sector can only dream of or get a real shock by getting a job with 'real world' pay, terms and conditions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    Children need long breaks to recharge at the end of a school year. It is parents who don't want to have long school holidays because they don't have time/money to take care of their children. What I don't understand is what happened to the family nucleus? Why not get grandparents, cousins, uncles, etc. involved so that kids can get a proper summer break!

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    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.
    And a Society made up primarily one culture Finnish!

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    "@194.E Doyle Just over £7.69ph is what my partner gets for teaching based on the 60 hours a week she works. Not many 'professions' in the private sector pay that badly. But carry on this your unfounded teacher bashing!"

    60 hours a week? Twice the number of teaching hours available? I would suggest that either she is; a) spectacularly inefficient or; b) not.
    You also need some maths help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    If children 'forget' so much over the long summer break how is it that those at private schools don't? They have far longer holidays than state schools. Maybe it is the small class sizes, commitment to education and aspirational parents that make the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    I don't see why it would be such a glorious freedom for schools to decide their own term times. Can't we just standardise all school holidays? This would reduce the already difficult childcare problems people are now facing.

    Also, discussing 'problems' like this is such a waste of time when the economy is in the state it's in; can't we sort this out when we have actually seen some growth?

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    3 Minutes ago
    189. Mister Point

    So you're saying that it's ok for parents to take their kids out of school during term time?

    I'm sorry but if that is the case, that makes you a bad parent.

    That seems a bit harsh - it should be judged on a case by case basis. If your kids are smart, they'll have no problem catching up on a few days lost work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Bearing in mind the regular havoc that schools cause by (conveniently) arranging all of their "inset" days for Mondays and Fridays, I cant even start to imagine the disasters that are in store for us working parents.

    On the subject of inset days, can anyone explain why these guys are having this Friday off when theyve all got a 6/7 week holiday coming in less than a month?

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    201. Hardly surprising that the teachers are all Conservatives now. Always has been the party for the wealthy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    @219.Parklife Ricky

    Is the answer 11?

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Regions should co-ordinate school holidays, it is sensible for the well being of all employees that they and their children can spend time together at points throughou the year, whether they go on holiday or not. 6 weeks of holiday is long, children do need a little help to get back up to speed in September so a discussion around that could be useful (within regions).

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.


    have you worked in a school?

    if you have, or if you still do, then you know the score.

    If you haven't, then you have NO idea how spot on you are.

    decades ago, elderly admin staff rolled their eys & whispered to me that teachers were offensive & talked to them like children.

    decades on, all my children are more streetwise & socially aware than many of their school teachers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    As a teacher it's hilarious to read that people's kids are so bored in the summer holidays that they're gagging to get back in my (or anyone's) lessons. Yeah, right! I can still remember as a child hating summer holidays: in the park, swimming, cycling! Yeah, right! Get a grip, people! And those who think teaching 14 yr olds is an easy life, come and join us, now, we need your obvious expertise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    As a parent fortunate enough to have a holiday with my kids, I object more to the July/August price fixing by the holiday operators. If there was fairer pricing available parents would not need to take their kids out of school. Don't attack the teachers, nor the unions, this is more unwanted meddling from Gove and his nasty party..


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