‘Recipe for chaos’: Yorkshire council is first to cut school holidays to just five weeks

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A YORKSHIRE COUNCIL has become the first in England to cut the school summer holidays to under five weeks from the end of the next academic year in a bid to improve results.

But a teachers’ union has described the plans as a “recipe for chaos”.

'Sound research': Barnsley councillor Tim Cheetham

'Sound research': Barnsley councillor Tim Cheetham

Barnsley Council, has published term dates for the academic year 2017-18 - which include a shortened summer break and a two-week half-term holiday in October.

The council said the changes would help children’s education by avoiding “learning loss” over the traditional long summer holiday.

It said the change was carried out following a consultation with “all teaching, head teacher and support staff unions and staff representatives.” .

Ian Stevenson, Yorkshire’s regional secretary of the National Union of Teachers said: “The reason this is being proposed is ‘learning loss’. The idea that a long break harms pupils education but most of the research on this is from the United States where they have a much longer break. I think the idea that learning loss exists is contentious and it makes no sense for a council in this country to do this when we have some of the shortest summer holidays in the world.”

As academies are free to adopt their own timetable Mr Stevenson warned that it could create chaos for parents who have children attending schools who are on holiday at different times.

Horizon Community College headteacher Nick Bowen said the council should reconsider as there had been little consultation with school leaders.

He said it would also affect schools’ ability to recruit high-quality staff as teachers want and need a chance to “recharge their batteries”. “There is also the fact that most of the academies in the area probably won’t come on board with it so everyone will have different holidays,” he added. “And it will be a disaster in terms of attendance because parents who have multiple children will have to take other siblings out of school if the holidays don’t match.”

Coun Tim Cheetham, cabinet spokesman for people (achieving potential), said: “We are committed to ensuring every child in Barnsley has the opportunity to reach their full potential and get the best out of their education. The decision to alter the borough’s term times and holiday dates is based on sound research evidence that shows the maximum length of the summer break should be no more than five weeks for the best educational outcomes. It has been met with a largely positive response from parents and although not based on these primarily, the proposal also has potential economic benefits and advantages for working parents.

“The decision was made with full consultation from all teaching, head teacher and support staff unions and staff representatives; we understand reaction to change is always mixed and, inevitably, will suit some more than others. There is often a variation between neighbouring authorities and even within authorities – although it should be acknowledged that the variation only amounts to two weeks in difference. Academies like all schools are free set their own holiday dates - the local authority makes a recommendation.”

Under the plans the summer holiday will run from July 31 2018, a Tuesday.

In 2017, schools will break up almost a week earlier on Wednesday July 26. This year the final day of term will be July 20.

The new dates put the holiday at an estimated 34 days - nine fewer than the previous year.

Children will have an extra week off in October instead.