Nottingham City Council in the UK wants to revamp the archaic school year, switching to five terms each year instead of three and cutting the summer holiday from six weeks to four weeks. Other councils across England are believed to be monitoring the situation and considering similar changes.
However, the National Union of Teachers is strongly opposed to the changes and there is a motion scheduled to be debated at their annual conference in Torquay next month that will ask the union to approve industrial action to oppose the reforms.
The union also said it would damage staff morale, adding that teachers already worked long hours and “the essential need for a period of genuine rest and recuperation [is] only found by many in the long summer break”.
“Teaching remains the most stressful occupation,” the union claimed.
In England currently, states schools operate on a three term schedule, separated by fortnight long breaks at Christmas and Easter and a six week long summer holiday covering the end of July, all of August and the beginning of September. There are also two week long ‘half-terms’ in February and October. While this seems like a lot of time off it has economic ramifications by bottle-necking available holiday times for families across the country, and these dates traditionally see large price hikes for a range of vacations and activities. Staggered term times and holidays to negate this effect have been discussed every couple of years for decades. The NUT claims that the changes are based not on the welfare of children, but on purely financial concerns for other parties:
“Conference believes that the motivation behind some of the proposed changes is to keep children in school for longer and therefore reduce the need for childcare,”
Christine Blower, the NUT general secretary, blames the push for reform on the widespread cutting of youth clubs and services that used to provide children with activities to do outside of school and that these cuts should be reversed instead of trying to address the resultant problems by simply keeping children in school longer.
Staff “refute the misconception that more teaching automatically leads to more learning”
The government noted that the current school year was designed for children in the 1900s, but tried to remain outside the brewing fight.
A spokesman for the Department for Education, said: “It’s down to schools and local authorities to decide their own term dates and holidays – not government.