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 600.

    i guess the upside is school holidays will no longer be instep with Europe, so we can book a cheaper holiday. Hang on , they are already protesting in Brussels that we can not under EU law move term dates to get cheaper holidays and the French have promised to go on strike due to the increase work load in traditional off peak times.. teachers can book cheaper holidays so no need for a pay rise !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    "@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+)"

    Any advance on 80+hrs per week?

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    One day I'd like to see would happen if teachers worked to this mythical 9-3.30ish idea that people had. Categorically refused to take any work home (no coursework marking), refused to run any sort of after school activity/sport/homework club and refused to prepare any lessons outside of school hours (especially with pretty much every course about to be rewritten). That might change a few views.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    This is a typical Tory attempt to divide and conquer!

    This government was not elected to cause a revolution (aka chaos) in schoold and hospitals.

    It seems even a minute longer for this government is too long. The Lib Dems have shown how ineffective and feeble they are in government. They are allowing the Tories to trample all over this country with radical policies which noone voted for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    What causes chaos is teachers striking!

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    What a complete shambles..

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    It is a myth that children need time to catch up after a long summer break. In Finland where educational achievement is amongst the best in the world they have a 12 week summer break.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    I would love to invite the people who are being fantastically negative about teachers/teaching in to follow me for a week in september.

    The lazy teachers provide all of you with a fantastic deal on your childcare. Sadly we need some time off too. It is essential that schools in an area coordinate their holidays - regardless of when those holidays are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    I'm married to Head teacher and have worked in secondary schools,teaching staff and parents have nothing to lose from this unless the criminals in the holiday industry then move all of the prices to premium rate all the year,hopefully we parents wouldn't be held to ransom by these companies as we've been for years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    This is more sinister than it appears. Gove wants to FORCE schools to join academies as private sponsors make money. At the moment the main reason for schools to voluntarily join before being pushed (meaning no private owner makes money from them) is the ability to decide their holiday dates.

    Give them this ability anyway and most will wait until they're forced and his chums will make a fortune.

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.


    Not wanting to be picky either but you asked for one school and you were provided with it.

    The real issue is not one of quantity but of quality - a point you more or less seem to be agreeing with in your last post.

    We should exam critically (and not simply dismiss) what they do in the highest performing countries. Then use this to inform our own practice. No harm in pinching good ideas!

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    Do I detect the deft hand of Mr Gove at work? Is there anything that he touches that doesn't turn into brown stuff apart from brown stuff?

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    1 Hour ago
    Worrying the number of teachers on here who cannot spell or punctuate properly.

    the pedantic idiots who criticise spelling and grammer wind me up more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    I have continued to read the comments from many re lazy teachers, long hols, etc. What hatred in some of these comments against teachers. I am not a teacher, I would never want their job. It seems that parents want to have their cake & eat it. Lets close all the Schs &the parents can teach their kids not the state. Teaching is not a 9-5 job,no bonus no com car etc.so give teachers help not hatred

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    574. nevin77
    Teachers are so used to doing the telling, they cant handle being told what to do.

    Wow! it must have taken you ages to come up with that constructive comment. Are you Michael Gove in disguise?

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    Another London-centric policy - where transport to school is either walking or public transport that runs all year. In rural areas this will be a nightmare (bad enough that academies are trying to be seen to be different and attract people from miles away), without having coach companies charging more because the school dates are when they usually pick up lucrative tour routes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    In the UK we already have very different holidays - just compare Scotland and England already have different holidays as do private schools. Easter already varies depending in you have first 2 weeks of April or floating around Easter Sunday and many schools had different Feb holidays this year. On the continent they are set by region and vary quite considerably - look at the bigger picture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    Freedom comes together with responsibility. It is about time school (through its headteacher and teachers) to decide how to make best use of a freedom, in this case school term timing, for the benefits of pupils. Let us stop the big brother approach in educating our future generations. Give shcool its deserved freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    563: All three that you mentioned sent their children to Grant Maintained schools. These were state schools who opted out of local authority control, not private schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 581.

    My wife and daughter are both teachers. I work 60+ hours a week running a small manufacturing business yet my job is easier than theirs without doubt. I wouldn't do it for a big clock.
    The Summer holidays should be shaved by 3 weeks however and these added to the half term breaks to give teachers and pupils a rest


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