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 560.


    Moira, I'm presuming you are not a teacher. Public Exam weeks are the easiest to cover for schools as the pupils are off on study leave, teachers then could put in a holiday as they have less class contact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    Gove has no mandate for this change - like others. Have parents been consulted or indeed anyone at all??? His model is generally an idealised public school system but these have longer holidays at the same time; perhaps he should suggest shorter holidays but that would involve accepting that public schools aren't up to standard! Will school 'stakeholders' vote (unlikely) and if so agree- doubt it

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    541.Tom Dundee

    It is called supply & demand. Of course hols are going to more expensive if everyone wants to go on one during the same 6 wks - this is one of the lunacy results of an arbitrary, one size fits all current policy. Gove might be cack handed but he is right that his dept like so many others are run more or less the same way as they were in Victorian Times & reform is long overdue

  • rate this

    Comment number 557.

    "386. gOLLUM

    Is it just me or is anyone else to sick to the back teeth of whingeing teachers? It really is a wonder they ever find the time to teach. Boring and tedious - about time you joined us in the real world."

    Which real world do YOU live in?

    When did you last stand up in front of thirty stroppy teenagers, all day, every day, and try to teach them something?

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    Different term times, what a spectacularly stupid idea.

    Several kids in separate schools, new rules requiring a letter from the Pope if you want to take them out of school during term.

    What have you got?
    see line 1 above

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    Whilst Gove has little or no industrial/commercial.. not to mention teaching ...experience, I suspect he's had some crash management coaching from management training gurus .I once had to attend one of those 'buttocks aching' courses where we had to shout out any daft ideas that came into our heads. All had to be seriously considered and none rejected ."creative brain storming" trendy in the 70s

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    If teachers are really spending their summer holidays marking and planning why not just make it official and give hem 5 weeks per year holiday like the rest of us. This comes as a parent who recently bumped into their child's Headmistress at Centre Parcs on an Inset day...

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    I saw that the average teacher, I mean the average pay for a teacher is about £29k a year. I didn't know that it was so low. To look after a class of 30 kids I would expect at least £60k. The stress would kill most of us. I have 3 and with the wife and the aupair I can just about remain stress neutral. Anyway fining peeps who take their kids out in term time only punishes the poorer.A bit harsh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    What is wrong with the Education Department in England?, 'Pick your own Term Times' and 'Plans for firms to run schools for profit', I am sure these Ideas are being picked at random from a hat, it's as If they want to lose control of the system in the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.


    No, that's what I'm saying - *both* sides are going overboard. I wouldn't want to be a teacher (and wouldn't do too well either I imagine) My point about my mates is that many of us have stressful, difficult jobs, or haven't had a pay-rise for 3 years etc) but it is only the teachers (in my group) who feel they have to complain to us whenever we all get together... That's all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 550.

    My wife recently joined the teaching profession (private sector before) and she is shocked how out of touch the whole system is.

    She says the majority of teachers colleagues moan about everything, yet hate change and have no clue how easy they get it. They are almost impossible to remove and half of them are poor at their job.

    Why don't they strike or train in their 13 week holidays?

  • rate this

    Comment number 549.

    Only a fool who has no experience of families with children or education would be daft enough to come up with this nonsense. Time to give the education secretary his P45 which is well overdue!

  • rate this

    Comment number 548.

    So on the one hand govt is too london centric and makes all the decisions for everyone so it's the big bad out of touch govt..then when power is devolved locally in this case schools, they are then also causing chaos and its still big bag london govt..? Which is it people make up your minds. Don't stop at school terms, give people more devolved powers surely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    So many people on this forum seem to know an awful lot about a job they do not do. If its so easy and gold plated, come and give it a try - you may miss your year end bonus, company car, away days on the golf course and expenses account tho Oh and the cheap holidays you take during term time !

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    @498 Kneeslider1 - Where is this school where they only work 60 hours a week?! I want to work there instead of here! We all work far more (80+) hours than that each week. 60 hours woud be a doddle. My colleagues and I tend to read the news and comments (mainly negative, sadly) about teachers at 1am after finishing marking and planning for the day. We smile ruefully when we hear how lazy we are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    You have t laugh at some of the claims being made here - if teachers' concerns were about cheaper holidays then they'd be all for this measure as they only get to take their 4 weeks a year off outside of term times, when all the kids are on holiday.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    What is STAGGERING is the amount of people that are far more bothered about their holiday than about the children. I don't care about your family holiday, at all. What I do care about is the education.

    The difference is, you can CHOOSE. You can leave work early for a friend's birthday, or get in a bit late. You can go to the family wedding on a Friday. Teachers cant. Grow up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    Another somewhat crazy idea which will lower moral of staff. It is about time the union movement started doing things for the workers, unemployed and poor of this nation! This choice of when education is available by region will lead to disruption of family life both for parents and staff. Will education improve certainly NOT under condem. policies. We need change NOW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    522. whambam

    No, the first day back is never "cancelled" for training days (they actually train on those days by the way). Children go to school 190 days a year and teachers work 195 days; that's what those days are for. The day after is the first day back.

    So many lies and half truths spread by the media and encouraged by the government to keep teachers "in their place."

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    It would help if holiday companies didn't charge twice as much for holidays when they know they are going to be busy. Apart from not being as free to rip us off, it would make planning round school terms much easier.


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