Now traditional Easter holidays under threat as Sheffield shuffles school timetable

A COUNCIL is considering changing the school timetable so that the Easter Holidays always take place in the first two weeks of April, regardless of when the bank holiday falls.
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The proposal for Sheffield schools would allow for at least three weeks of preparation for the national tests sat by 11-year-old pupils at the end of year six.

However, a teaching union has voiced concern over the disruption the plans could cause.

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It follows controversy over the school timetable in neighbouring Barnsley where the council put forward and then scrapped the idea of reducing the summer term to five weeks to prevent ‘learning loss.’

This plan had been met with opposition from both the teaching unions and some headteachers in the town.

In Sheffield a consultation letter has been sent out to schools across the city by the council about the plans for the 2017/18 school year.

It has two proposals for the Easter break. The first is to follow the traditional school calendar.

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The second would be to fix the Easter holidays for the first two weeks in April.

Under this timetable, pupils would still be off on Good Friday and Easter Monday if they fall outside this period. In the letter to schools, Sheffield City Council says there had been unanimous support at a seminar for headteachers and governors for the idea of ensuring the Easter break was fixed for the first two weeks in April.

However, the NUT’s regional secretary for Yorkshire, Ian Stevenson, has questioned the plans.

He said it could cause disruption for parents and teachers who have children or work in schools in neighbouring authorities outside of Sheffield.

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He added: “Academies don’t have to follow the pattern so it could be difficult for parents with a child in a local authority school and a child in an academy.” And he voiced concerns about the impact on teacher recruitment.

He said: “Teachers from a local authority which does not follow the pattern may not be able to start with Sheffield at start of the new term, teachers leaving Sheffield may in some circumstances be off for three or more weeks before they start with their new employer.”

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for Children, Young People and Families at Sheffield City Council, said: “We are consulting on the school calendar after talking to head teachers across the city, including from academies.

“The survey invites views on two options: to keep the current arrangement or to make a change to the Easter holiday so that it occurs at a fixed two weeks each year.”

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She said the idea for the change at Easter had come from school leaders.

Coun Drayton said: “Head teachers suggested we consult on the option to fix the Easter break to create even term lengths and to take account of timings of exams.

“We want to make sure we find the best option to make sure students have the best opportunity to learn.

“This means taking into account timings of exams, the length of terms, what the neighbouring local authorities are doing as well as the results of the consultation.

“I appreciate that there will be different views.

“We welcome all feedback and encourage parents and teachers to fill in the survey so that we can make the best decision about the school calendar.”