Six-term school year rejected

By Katy EdwardsSTRONG opposition from parents, governors and teachers has forced councillors to shelve proposals for a radical shake-up of the school year.

By Katy Edwards

STRONG opposition from parents, governors and teachers has forced councillors to shelve proposals for a radical shake-up of the school year.

Term dates for 2004/5 in Suffolk will now be based on a more traditional three-term model, rather than the six-term system proposed by an Independent Commission.

Suffolk County Council was originally in favour of the national proposal to standardise the school year from autumn 2004, but negative feedback has sent it back to the drawing board.

Although still broadly supportive of the six-term model, the council's executive committee agreed yesterday it was not entirely workable and needed further altering before it could be adopted by schools.

Union members welcomed what they regarded as a “last-minute conversion” by the council.

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Martin Goold, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said he was pleased the council had “shown some common sense”.

He added: “We want a proper consultation on a whole range of alternative models, not just trying to force through a favourite.

“We do agree that we need to find a better way of arranging teaching time so we do not have unequal terms, but the model that was proposed was not practical when you tried to fit it to real dates.”

Mr Goold said the proposed new system still did not address the problem of extra-long autumn terms.

Tony Lewis, lead councillor on the executive committee, said 2004/5 was not an ideal year to bring in the changes as the Easter holiday would fall on an inconvenient date.

He added: “We feel that the proposals don't give sufficient advantages to offset the disadvantages.

“We are more or less going ahead with traditional terms for next year and will be looking to the following year to get better proposal from the commission.

“Even if you agree with something in principle, when you look at it in practical terms you may begin to see problems. We won't change to a different system if it is no better than the one we have.”

Mr Lewis said the age-old problem of the extra-long autumn term and subsequent “burnout” for teachers and pupils was something that needed addressing.

Neil Watts, headteacher at Northgate High School in Ipswich, said: “The council has clearly listened to the people at the chalk-face.

“I know my colleagues in primary and secondary schools felt that what was being proposed would have been a lot worse. We are pleased they are sticking with what is known and trusted until a better alternative can be found.”

David Peachey, the county council's education director, will now make representations to the Local Government Association, urging the commission to develop new proposals for 2005/6.

katy.edwards@eadt.co.uk

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