School first to try five terms

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THE FIRST primary school in Britain to introduce a five-term year was opened yesterday by Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools.

Woodlands in Grimsby, formed by the merger of a junior and infant school, will now have five terms of eight weeks. Most will be separated by two- week holiday periods, although there is to be a four-week summer break at the end of the academic year.

The move is designed to test claims that cutting the usual six-week summer holiday will raise standards.

Geoff Hill, director of education for North East Lincolnshire Council, said the scheme could be expanded to other local schools if it was found to work. Education officers in Essex are also considering a five-term year, while local authorities across London are planning a consultation on the shift. But plans for a five-term year in East Sussex were shelved last year after parents rejected the proposal.

Mr Hill said the change had won the unanimous support of parents and teachers. He said: "The long summer holiday keeps children out of the system too long. Children can go backwards in their learning over a long summer break."

Teachers' leaders have vowed to oppose attempts to impose a new school year, claiming that it would be impractical and offered no proven benefits. Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The evidence from East Sussex, where they held a poll, was an overwhelming rejection of the idea because of the disruption it would cause."

Graham Lane, education chairman of the Local Government Association, said 70 per cent of parents in Newham in London had voted in favour. He said: `I really cannot understand why teachers cannot see the benefits. The currentschool year does not allow them the time to relax and recover."