Proposals to shake up East Riding school holidays spark mixed response
SCHOOLS in the East Riding are divided over options for a shake up of term dates.
The council is looking at changing traditional holiday periods to even out the length of school terms.
But four options suggested by the council have attracted a mixed response from school governors.
A minority of 17 schools wanted to keep the status quo, with the rest split over options for change.
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John Killeen, East Riding secretary for the National Association of Head Teachers, said it time for a change.
Mr Killeen, who is the headteacher of South Cave CE Primary School, said: "From an educational point of view, it's a no-brainer – the present system is archaic. It is based on historical religious holidays.
"Obviously, as headteacher of a church school I am not wanting to decry the importance of those but with the moveability of Easter, it makes a nonsense of curriculum planning.
"Breaking up the year into equal term lengths, with extended half terms, would make it more sensible."
Options put forward by the council include switching to terms of equal length, or fixing the spring break, which currently moves with Easter.
But Mr Killeen believes the council may now duck the issue because schools are divided.
He said: "Educationally, there is not a case for maintaining the status quo.
"The issue that faces the local authority – and this is why they will want to duck the issue – is it's a massive undertaking and headache to try to get any sort of consensus.
"The reality is, for a change in the pattern of term dates to work, it has to be a whole country change, but everyone is ducking the issue."
Mr Killeen said if the council changed term patterns parents could benefit from cheaper holidays.
He said: "If you have some changes and you are out of sync with other areas of the country, you could have the benefits of cheaper holidays because it is not classed as peak season.
"But there could be difficulties for families with people at schools in different local authority areas."
The most popular option, backed by governors at 33 schools, was for fixing the date of the two-week spring break in April. Currently it varies depending when Easter falls.
Another option, to move to an academic year with terms of equal length, was backed by governors at 31 schools.
Twenty-two schools wanted to adopt term dates agreed by the Yorkshire And North East Of England Term Dates Group.
The results of the consultation with governors will go before the council's children and young people overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday.
The committee's chairman Councillor Kerri Harold believes the council should go with the most popular option for change – fixing a two-week break in April.
She told the Mail: "It seems everyone in the country is waiting for someone else to make a change.
"I think we should be bold enough to fix the two-week spring break and pilot it for two years.
"If we do this and it's the wrong decision, we should be big and brave enough to change it back."
In a report to go before the committee, officers say there is no overwhelming support for any of the options for change, though retaining the status quo was the least favourable.
Members will be advised it may be appropriate for the council to continue working within the regional group of authorities to seek consensus on the setting of term dates.
Alison Michalska, director of children, families and adult services, says in the report: "It is clear there are differing views on the pattern of the academic year.
"Different groups, headteachers, staff and parents will all have their own perspective and it will not be possible to agree a set of term dates that meets everyone's needs."
Mrs Michalska said it would be helpful to seek the views of the primary and secondary headteachers groups on the results of the consultation.