School terms shake-up revealed

EDUCATION bosses in Suffolk could snub Government plans to roll out standardised school term dates nationwide.

EDUCATION bosses in Suffolk could snub Government plans to roll out standardised school term dates nationwide, it has emerged.

Suffolk County Council's cabinet will discuss the proposals, for 2007/08 school year, at its next meeting on April 4.

The authority is being asked to chose between two alternative models - a Local Government Association (LGA) proposal that Whitehall chiefs hope to impose nationwide, and an alternative drawn being considered by a breakaway group of authorities in the east of England.

It is recommended Suffolk adopts the latter proposal following fears over variations in the timing of Easter and, according to the cabinet paper, a desire for teachers to have a six-week summer holiday and two-week Christmas break.


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The report also says term dates need to be in line with neighbouring areas for those parents who live close to county borders and may have children who attend schools run by two different education authorities.

However, so far there seems to be little agreement on which plan to adopt. While Cambridge appears to favour the eastern alternative, Essex is likely to support an amended LGA proposal in line with Hertfordshire and some London boroughs, and Norfolk is yet to make up its mind.

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Patricia O'Brien, Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for children and young person's services said: “So far no other authorities have officially expressed what they would like to see but it does look like there may well be a split because Essex seems to favour the London plan whereas Cambridge and ourselves prefer the eastern model.

“At the moment though it's a little too early to say and I think we will just have to wait and see what happens. We're setting them a year-and-a-half in advance so there is plenty of time for change because nothing is set in stone.

“All the teacher associations support an eastern region model and so does the Church of England.

“One of the main problems is the timing of Easter. Because it is a movable holiday we think what the LGA is recommending will be difficult and believe that our alternative will suit the region better.”

The LGA proposal is based on an even a pattern of term dates as possible, approximately two blocks of seven weeks before the Christmas break and four blocks of six weeks after Christmas.

However the plans include a separation of the Easter bank holidays from the spring break - a move that would see youngsters have March 21 and 24 off on top of the usual two week break that would follow later.

Education experts in Suffolk fear this could lead to children missing out on vital schooling if parents take them away for the Easter period.

As a result the authorities of Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Peterborough, Milton Keynes and Luton have drawn up an eastern alternative that incorporates the Easter weekend into the spring holiday.

Martin Goold, Suffolk county secretary for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “We believe the eastern region option is a better variation but the whole issue of school term dates does need to be sorted out properly.

“Unfortunately you can't do that without fixing Easter which is always difficult because it keeps moving around. The LGA proposals detach Easter from the school holidays and we have concerns that children who go away over this period because their parents have time off work will miss out on schooling.

“A large number of events happen over this time, including teacher conferences, and we think it is sensible for it to be part of the holiday

“The whole aim is to try and make terms a more even length and our members would be happy to look at anything that would make this work.

“For example we are not tied to August for the summer holiday, it could be moved.”

LGA recommended term dates for 2007/08

Term Term dates No. of days

Autumn term (1) Mon Sept 3 - Fri Oct 19 35

October half term Mon Oct 22 - Fri Oct 26

Autumn term (2) Mon Oct 29 - Weds Dec 19 38

Christmas holiday Thurs Dec 20 - Weds Jan 2

Spring term (1) Thurs Jan 3 - Fri Feb 15 32

Feb half term Mon Feb 18 - Fri Feb 22

Spring term (2) Mon Feb 25 - Fri Apr 4 28

Spring holiday Mon Apr 7 - Fri Apr 18

Summer term (1) Mon Apr 21 - Fri May 23 24

Whitsun half term Mon May 26 - Fri May 30

Summer term (2) Mon June 2 - Weds July 23 38

Total 195

Eastern region alternative

Term Term dates No. of days

Autumn term (1) Mon Sept 3 - Fri Oct 19 35

October half term Mon Oct 22 - Fri Oct 26

Autumn term (2) Mon Oct 29 - Weds Dec 19 38

Christmas holiday Thurs Dec 20 - Weds Jan 2

Spring term (1) Thurs Jan 3 - Fri Feb 8 27

Feb half term Mon Feb 11 - Fri Feb 15

Spring term (2) Mon Feb 18 - Thurs Mar 20 24

Spring holiday Fri Mar 21 - Fri Apr 4

Summer term (1) Mon Apr 7 - Fri May 23 34

Whitsun half term Mon May 26 - Fri May 30

Summer term (2) Mon June 2 - Tues July 22 37

Total 195

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