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 620.

    As a younger retired person, i am time rich, cash poor, so i like been able to go on holiday during school term, and i don't for one minute believe the travel industry will reduce the high season to a permenant low one so we will all loose out, still if your a rich politician who cares what the oiks think

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    #564 We have the paradox of asking 'Can a control freak(guess who) also be an anarchist?' as the policies being vomited from the DofEd fall into both categories. But this is government 'policy'; along with the proposal to sell off education in England, the objective is utter chaos, so that public sector is seen to be 'failing', therefore needs privatising.
    MPs have longer hols than anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    'I'm not a teacher, but as a parent I've never seen one leave school at 3.30pm. However, many times I see them leave at 6pm.'

    Really? School car parks are mostly empty at 4pm where I come from.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    190 days of teaching, 104 days of weekend. That leaves 71 days of holidays. That's 14 weeks and 1 day! I'll take mine in one go thank you very much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    Teacher bashers
    Did you want shorter holidays when you were at school?
    Or now that you have left school do you want the holidays to be shorter so those pesky teachers do not get more holidays than you?

    I think kids enjoy their 6 weeks off, this should not be about cutting teachers holidays but about preserving the children's holidays.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    490. shawlands lad
    Put the glue bag down son, your gassed out of your nut.
    You really ought to proofread your comments before posting.
    I sincerely hope your (sic) not an English teacher! lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    @captainswing1 - I agree. Sadly we do need a union, but make it one like the BMA rather than the current fragmented system we have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    The most obvious outcome will be that families will take children out of school to fit round their own holiday requirements and if children have differing holiday times depending on their school's scheduling this will simply be ignored.

    Absence rates will increase, attainment will fall and schools will be blamed by government for the mess created by them in the first place.
    Think again Gove!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    In a related article - Quote: "Trainee teacher 'shortage' warning."

    If they want to encourage more into the teaching profession, perhaps they could entice more candidates if they offered more holiday time.

    Instead of arguing about whether break up the long summer holiday, what they should do is have 6 weeks off in Summer and extend the Christmas holidays to 6 weeks as well.

    They need a break...

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    @607. The holiday companies must be having apoplexy

    Or planning to extend the length of the peak holiday season?

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    Imagine standardising Teacher job descriptions?

    4 weeks hol - When kids are off, you train, plan and upkeep the school.

    Hours - 8.30 to 5.30 as standard, but expectation to get the job done however long.

    Pay - National average - £26.5k.

    Pension - No longer final salary, may go up or down, Gordon Brown can rob from it. Retire at 68.

    How does the real world sound?

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    There are advantages and disadvantages. Why not do the sensible thing and pick a handful of schools to run with the scheme on a trial basis for a couple of years ? A gentle roll-out allows the overall impact to be assessed and if it doesn't work it can be mothballed with minimal disruption...

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    One of this morning's papers suggested that Gove wants to introduce privately run profit making state schools, and this is no doubt part of the softening up for that. Pretty soon the Scottish and Welsh governments will have to introduce strict immigration controls to stop being overrun by the English desperate to flee from the loony right profit driven free-for-all madness of the coalition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    The holiday companies must be having apoplexy - the thought that some families may be able to avail of a holiday at a lower season cost without being ripped off with extra high season charges (as has happened for years) will be a bug-bear to those gannets!

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Its better for me if all schools across all of Europe, not just the UK, all take the exact same holidays at the same time.

    When they are and how long they are of zero relevance - I have no children of school age.

    It will however just allow me to get cheaper holidays with less crowds.

    Its all about me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    I know. We could have a system where we decide what we want for our children in education, then employ somebody to actually do that job - we could call them teachers, or similar - until they reached a certain level, at maybe 16 or so

    Alternatively we could have a bunch of vocational instructors to dictate what we should do instead

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    Stop messing with everything all the time. Just stop it. Let's make parliament meet for just 2 weeks a year, stop paying full time career politicians and concentrate on important stuff - cease messing about at all levels of education, health etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    261.E Doyle
    We must break the NUT for the sake of tomorrows children.
    I agree, it's definitely time to get rid of Gove, he's not only a nut, he's a completely deluded nut with an ego the size of Brazil :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    We should ban children, we obviously cannot cope with them. And the old, infirm, frail, over 30's, ill, irresponsible, unwanted, homeless et all.

    HEY I have saved the world debt in one go!

    Now if we could just get Logan to *RUN* with the Soylent Green company all our problems will be solved.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.


    Your choice - I guess there are teaching jobs near you ! Why not give it a try ?


Page 24 of 54


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