Essex six term school year `possible'

THE introduction of a six-term school year in Essex is still a possibility, education chiefs have confirmed.Essex County Council's ruling cabinet is set to decide in June whether and how, a new way to divide the school year should be introduced.

By Roddy Ashworth

THE introduction of a six-term school year in Essex is still a possibility, education chiefs have confirmed.

Essex County Council's ruling cabinet is set to decide in June whether and how, a new way to divide the school year should be introduced.

The current system of three terms, each with a half term break, can be complicated and frustrating for teachers to plan for, because of the fluctuation of the date of Easter.


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This year for example, the first section of the Summer term lasts only four weeks, while the following "half" lasts for eight.

However, a recent consultation of state schools in Essex showed there was little consensus as to how the academic year should be divided.

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Four options were put forward by the county council: a traditional school year pattern of three terms, each with a one-week half term break; a variation of the traditional pattern with more complete weeks, ie. breaking up for holidays on Fridays and starting back on Mondays; a "standard school year" of six terms; and a "five term year"

Although the five term year proposal was the least favourite, support for the other three was more or less equal.

Concerns were raised by some church schools about fixed terms because of the implications for Holy week and the Easter Festival, which would lose the current automatic two-week holiday.

Iris Pummell, county council member with responsibility for education, said the matter would be discussed today at a Children and Family Services and Schools policy development group meeting.

"I also have a meeting later this week with the teachers' associations and all the options will be discussed. At the moment there is no preferred option which has emerged as the likely way forward," she said.

But Terry Creissen, headteacher of the Colne Community School in Brightlingsea, said he thought there should be a national move to change terms, not just a local one.

"If you were in the north of Essex and had children in a Suffolk primary with one set of terms and one in Essex with a different set it could cause problems.

"But if you said to head-teachers, parents and children whether they would prefer equal length terms I think the answer would be yes.

"Now is the right time to consider the change. We don't need to send our children into the fields during summer to do the harvest anymore.

"However, it would be better to have a uniform, national change rather than going it alone."

Nicholas Rudman, headteacher of Eight Ash Green and Aldham Primary School, near Colchester, said: "I am pretty sure that within the next year or two Essex will move to some sort of six term year.

"This term is ridiculous because of when Easter was. It makes much more sense to break it down. Teachers generally plan in six week blocks."

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