Teachers' 'chaos' warning for schools setting own terms

Holiday flights The summer holidays could operate to a different timetable in different schools

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1080.

    If newly built houses started falling down, the Architectural Profession would act and get to the bottom of it. If people started dying when taking a drug, the Medical Profession would investigate.

    But, if kids' education falls, the Teaching Profession goes into denial mode (in between carping about "60+hour weeks" and money) - it doesn't even exist according to you.

    Spot the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1079.

    #1077 "Educational standards have NOT fallen".
    The top 10% still perform just as well. We simply label them differently.

    Getting a high "label" has become easier. Getting into the top 10% is still difficult.

    In my day 20% of kids gained GCSE in a given subject. They were no better than the top 20% now, we just call the top 20% "special" now, instead of "pass". A level Maths is still hard!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1078.

    1068. BillyBong
    "Educational standards haven't declined.."

    three words: everyone gets prize

    1073. stewing
    even the article admits: "evidence, albeit based on questionable data"
    Exactly my point. the bar is being lowered to meet the education level - to make the 'data' fit requirements.
    'general decline' is a continual narrative, but that proves nothing. what is in the narrative counts

  • rate this

    Comment number 1077.

    "Educational standards have not fallen."

    Right, so the near universally accepted, statistically undeniable "grade inflation" of the GCSE, for example, never happened?

    The A-level is just as much of a gold standard now as it was in 1985? Better tell all those universities running foundation courses, then.

    Long term employers of the young are imagining poor literacy/numeracy?

    Doubleplusgood etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 1076.

    1066 Lord_Raiden. Glue perhaps, but still waiting for your evidence rather than wild assesertions... especially since you haven't been in schools since the 80s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1075.

    Educational standards have not fallen. Those children I get to Oxbridge are no less educated.

    The labelling system has simply changed from identifying excellence in the top 20% to stigmatising the less academic 30%.

    "Lead by example" works for me. Pretend unions, like the teacher's unions, don't work. Aggression/power is the key. We should learn from the solicitor/accountants unions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1074.

    Sorry, I refuse point blank and on principle now to respond to any poster who, yet again, accuses me of even reading The Daily Mail. How puerile.

    Assuming you're bothered, I'd suggest checking out the rating/performance of our education system in comparison to peers, as determined by totally independent organisations, the OECD prime among them. (Or just ask any employer of young people).

  • rate this

    Comment number 1073.

    1065 ManBearPig. This litany of supposed decline has been going on since the latter part of the 19th.C and coincides with Britain's decline as a world power. If it were all true then I'm surprised we aren't all totally illiterate. Lots of info but summed up quite well here. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/02/matthew-taylor-schools-are-getting-better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1072.

    1060. crickedneck

    "I quite appreciate that Gove has an undetectable IQ (like most private school pupils I have interviewed"

    Yeah right. That must be why I keep getting my mind blown in ASDA.

    wherever you 'interview' just try spouting that opinion to your superiors and see how long you keep your job. by the way what is it that requires you to interview so many private school pupils?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1071.

    Teaching unions are now completely irrelevant. Once Academies (=destruction of national pay scales) were imposed the unions were screwed. They are now simply self serving.

    The issue here is the destruction of education - and being "tough". If your children are in the bottom 40% of the ability range Gove is mainly interested in labelling them as failures - not maximising their skills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1070.

    It won't affect those in receipt of benefits because they will still go on their holidays abroad when they feel like it. I know this because the Daily mail says so, so it must be true...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1069.

    1063. It is to be found on the streets of Britain. If you were not working 60 hours a week you would know this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1068.

    Lord Raiden (1053) Which data has persuaded you that educational standards have declined? Educational standards haven't declined just because Michael Gove and the Daily Mail say they have. The mob loves a leader who slays a dragon and the next leader of the Tory party has invented one. Use the education you were fortunate enough to receive to look at the evidence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1067.

    @1064.You guess wrongly.

    Twice in fact: because far from "striking too readily" the union is, in the opinion of many members, dragging its feet by ONLY calling REGIONAL strikes.

    Lot of unrest in the South over this because, as you say, it won't attract media attention.

    But I'll reword: your daughter's school has closed FOUR times in the last 27 years: since the London regional won't affect you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1066.

    "behaviour is the issue."

    Indeed, including that of the teachers themselves.
    Rule #1: "Lead by Example"

    Leaving this point aside though, I do agree that classroom discipline has become appalling even in comparison to the 80s when I was at school, let alone in my parents' day.

    Sorry, you would have to have had glue in your eyes in order to suggest educational standards have not declined.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1065.

    1055. Parklife Ricky

    OK but people who harp on that gove is hellbent on some agenda of destruction etc are intellectually dishonest in the extreme.
    there is a race-to-the-bottom system in place and NOTHING is worse than that. the unions are just blockers. they offer nothing and are happy to watch the cynical downward spiral as long as it ticks boxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1064.

    @1055.Parklife Ricky

    ''...NUT have struck NATIONALLY three times in the last 27 years...''

    I emphasised your use of the word nationally as I guess its a recent tactic to arrange regional strikes on differing dates to attract less media interest and criticism.


    Carry on but don't accept widespread public support since many people are considerably worse off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1063.

    1053 Lord_Raiden. Having taught for 37 years including 18 of the last 20 I wonder where the hard evidence for that sweeping assertion is to be found. Mind you 20 years would just about coincide with the introduction of OFSTED and the National Curriculum in state schools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1062.

    Who is serving who here? If our our children's education is paramount then lets keep to a national rigid holiday schedule, then everyone, pupils, parents and teachers knows were they are. Has it not worked for the last 100 years? If it ain't broke?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1061.

    Teaching is very, very, tiring. I have worked 60+ hour weeks as a company director/project manager (over 20yrs in total) and it is not nearly so tough. Having 30 bosses, all adolescents, looking for your every weakness is wearing.

    I get great exam results, so am not whining. Gove and "levels" are destroying the very nature of education.

    All teachers care: behaviour is the issue.


Page 1 of 54


More Education & Family stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.