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Childcare and Parenting
Proposals for the six term year explained
Proposals for the six term year explained.
For the first time, parents are having a say on the length and format of the school year. Some schools are introducing fines for parents who take children out of school during term times making it increasingly difficult to plan for holidays, especially if you have two or more children at different schools.
New proposals could bring nationwide standard term times that could be a major benefit to schools and parents alike, as well as children in terms of alleviating stress brought on by long terms and intense periods of study. It could also mean more frequent breaks for children, reducing stress levels towards the end of term and exam months.
In Brighton, Sussex, a leaflet has been circulated to all parents asking them for their views on the standardisation of the school year into six terms. Neighbouring Local Education Authorities (LEA’s) have done the same. Depending on what parents say, Brighton and Hove Council may join the list of 25 other LEA’s around England that have agreed in principle to the six term year. See opposite for a list of all 25 LEA's who have agreed in principle so far.
The Standard School Year is a project of the Local Government Association (www.lga.gov.uk) designed to standardise the lengths of the terms of the school year, initially entitled the Six Term Year. They set up an independent commission to assess thoughts on the plan and have received an overall positive view from LEA’s. While the commission cannot enforce the plans, most LEAs have agreed to their proposals which means it could only be a matter of time before your LEA does the same.
The current pattern of the school year, established over a century ago, has long been considered by many as inappropriate to learning in the 21st century. With this in mind, a number of LEAs went out to consultation during the 1990s and received the identical response that because so many pupils cross LEA boundaries to go to school, only a national scheme would be of any use.
One reason is that it is difficult to say what the ‘present arrangements’ are. There are currently no consistent arrangements in England. Different summer holidays, Easter holidays, half terms and professional development days are set by different LEAs and schools. Because of these varied holiday patterns parents increasingly take their children out of school on holiday in term time. Terms of uneven length disrupt curriculum planning and delivery.
The LGA decided that your children deserve a consistent and predictable framework within which the national curriculum can be properly delivered and assessed, and now the earliest that changes could be implemented would be for the new school year in 2004/5.
So what are the changes that the LGA proposes?
· A school year of six terms
· Two terms each of approximately seven weeks before Christmas
· An extended holiday in October, or a long Christmas holiday (the proposals allow for both options)
· A two week Christmas week
· Four terms after Christmas, all no longer than six weeks
· A fixed two week spring holiday in early April (in place of the current Easter holiday)
· Good Friday and Easter Monday (which would still be holidays, taken as a long weekend break) may be during term time, although in many years Easter would still be part of the two week spring holiday period.
· A summer break of at least five weeks and one day
· Public examinations may be held in term five
· Term six would be used for cultural visits, easing the move between different phases of education (e.g. from primary to secondary school, and school to college or sixth forms) and careers advice.
All of these proposals don’t mean that there are any more or less teaching days. In fact, the proposals are for exactly the same number of teaching days (190), it is simply the format that will change. LEAs also remain independent when setting the start of their academic year; it will be up to them whether to start in August or September.
If you want to have your say or find out what the plans are in your area, contact your local council education department. Your school should be able to update you on their own thoughts and plans, which is definitely worth checking if you will have two or more children at different schools next year.
Wales have also said that they would endeavour to mirror the new proposals and Scotland have their own system, which they will stick to.