Concerns over Easter holiday plan

HEATEACHERS of Catholic schools in Essex have expressed concerns about plans to effectively abolish the traditional Easter holiday.Education chiefs at Essex County Council decided last month to replace the Easter break, which currently follows the Christian festival as it moves backwards and forwards in the calendar, with a fixed, two-week mid-April holiday.

HEATEACHERS of Catholic schools in Essex have expressed concerns about plans to effectively abolish the traditional Easter holiday.

Education chiefs at Essex County Council decided last month to replace the Easter break, which currently follows the Christian festival as it moves backwards and forwards in the calendar, with a fixed, two-week mid-April holiday.

But Alan Whelan, principal of St Benedict's College in Colchester, said that at a recent meeting of headteachers from the Brentwood Diocese, which includes all of Essex's 50 or so Catholic primary and secondary schools, members said they felt the Christian calendar was being increasingly marginalized.

"There is certainly quite a concern that this is another indication of this country being more and more secularised.


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"They do see it as a great threat."

The decision to replace the moveable feast of the Easter holiday with a fixed-date break was taken in order to even out term lengths.

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A two-week holiday in the middle of April will make the spring and summer terms approximately the same length. The change will be introduced in 2005. With an early Easter that year, schools would have faced a 16-week long summer term, six weeks longer than the spring term.

Mr Whelan said: "There are some practical benefits, in that it regularises the length of terms, but it is not beyond the wit of man to do what we have been doing for centuries and equalise it ourselves, rather than have this forced upon us."

Writing to parents, Mr Whelan said: "It seems likely that our governors will reluctantly agree to the local education authority dates. This will mean that we will be in school for Holy Week and Easter Week."

However, when the new arrangements were announced The Church of England Bishop of Chelmsford said he was pleased Good Friday was being retained.

"By safeguarding Good Friday as a special day, this gives a good opportunity to affirm that this goes to the heart of the Christian faith, because we are essentially still a nation with strong Christian faith and heritage.

"Secondly, this does mean that all who do want to take part in Good Friday processions or services are able to do so."

A spokesman for Essex County Council said: "We went through several rounds of consultation with school heads and governors and this move has received broad acceptance.

"This was decided several weeks ago, and this is the first call against the new school holiday pattern. Any change will create some opposition, but there has been very little on this matter.

"It has generally been seen as a way of solving the problem of sometimes seeing a huge difference between the lengths of the spring and summer terms."

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