Parents and teachers support six-term year

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The Independent Online

Plans to double the number of terms in the school year and scrap the traditional Easter holiday have won wide-spread support from parents, teachers and council leaders. Supporters of the new six-term year believe the Easter break causes serious disruption for schools because it falls on a different date every year.

Plans to double the number of terms in the school year and scrap the traditional Easter holiday have won wide-spread support from parents, teachers and council leaders. Supporters of the new six-term year believe the Easter break causes serious disruption for schools because it falls on a different date every year.

They say pupils would make better progress if school holidays had fixed dates, and exams were taken earlier in the year to avoid the hay fever season and allow students to apply to university after receiving their A-level results.

But they face a battle with the Church of England and other Christian groups, who say the plan would end the tradition of a long Easter break.

Teaching unions and exam boards are also sceptical about the scheme, arguing that it could cause disruption for schools and examiners.

The proposals were devised by an independent commission, set up by the Local Government Association, which represents the English local authorities. Chris Price, chairman of the commission and a former Labour MP, said: "Last year the late Easter holiday created all sorts of problems for schools. It created a three or four-week term in the summer, which was potty. This change would not mean enormous upheaval for schools. We believe it could happen in an organic way.

"It would benefit youngsters because they would have a far more coherent annual rhythm to their schooling. It would also help the two million children with hay fever who suffer during the June exam season."

More than 2,700 individuals and organisations responded to a consultation on the proposals, with 70 per cent saying they wanted the change to be introduced by August 2003.

The school calendar is decided by local education authorities and schools but the commission hopes schools will sign up to its recommendations. Under the plans, the school year would begin in August (as it does in Scotland) rather than September and have fixed holidays in October, December, February, March and June. Exams would be taken during the fifth "assessment" term in April and May with the final term devoted to cultural activities.

Schools would break for the summer in early July and would still enjoy a holiday of between five and six weeks.

The commission decided to leave the long summer holiday unchanged because teachers regarded it as a perk of the job and cutting it could damage recruitment, Mr Price said.

But Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary-designate of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, was "deeply sceptical". he said: "No convincing case has been advanced to justify yet another upheaval in school organisation."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Tinkering with the pattern of the school year will not eliminate the underlying causes of excessive workload and stress; only a new teachers' contract will do that."

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