School year should be divided into six terms, say experts

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The Independent Online

Pupils in England would have a six-term school year with exams in April and a six-week summer holiday from the start of July, under proposals put forward yesterday by an independent commission.

Pupils in England would have a six-term school year with exams in April and a six-week summer holiday from the start of July, under proposals put forward yesterday by an independent commission.

The six roughly equal new terms would replace the present three unequal ones. The Easter break would be fixed, regardless of the date of the religious festival. Schools would take Good Friday and Easter Monday as bank holidays, if they fell outside the spring holiday. A two-week holiday in October between the new autumn and winter terms would also be part of the plans, designed to cut pupil and teacher stress.

Term six, in May and June, would be a time for "a range of learning and cultural activities, some of which might not otherwise take place". The new summer break would copy policy in Scotland. Local authorities, who set up the commission and fix the terms for most schools, begin talks next week on implementing the proposals.

At present, universities make offers to students on the basis of predicted, not actual, A-level grades. The commission, chaired by Chris Price, a former MP and university principal, says the changes would simplify admissions because students could apply once they knew the grades. And the 1.8 million hay-fever sufferers could sit GCSE and A-level exams in April and May instead of when the pollen count is highest.

Graham Lane, chairman of the Local Government Association's education committee, said: "The structure of the year may help raise standards. The long spring term meant teachers were shattered by the start of the summer term."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Apart from making university entrance a little easier it is difficult to see how the benefits would outweigh the disadvantages of many other changes that would be required in our national life."

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