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Unions 2000 Friday, 28 April, 2000, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Strike threat over five-term year
Nigel de Gruchy
Nigel de Gruchy says the five term year has no proven benefits
By Alison Stenlake at the NASUWT conference in Llandudno

A teachers' leader has warned teachers could go on strike if a five-term year is imposed on schools.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), said his union's members would not be prepared to accept the change.

The union would be prepared to consider industrial action on a national basis - up to and including strike action - if any local education authority tried to "force it through".
Jules Donaldson
Jules Donaldson says the five-term year is an "insidious" proposal
He said that the thinking behind the five-term year was "purely social - get the schools to look after the kids to enable more people to have to work and not look after their own children".

"It's more and more change and at the end of the day, there's no proven case that it would do anything for the kids."

A commission set up by the Local Government Association to consider the five-term year, which would see the end of the traditional six-week school summer holiday, is due to report in late June or early July.

The commission chairman, former Labour MP Chris Price, suggested in January that the five-term year could help put some "fun" back into education.

He said the last of the five terms could be devoted to the "art, culture and creativity" which had been squeezed out of the school curriculum by "discipline and rote".

Vehemently opposed

Supporters of making the change also say that a larger number of shorter, more evenly spaced holidays would be better for both teachers and pupils, as children would have a greater chance of remembering what they learn from one term to the next.

A handful of schools have introduced a five-term year, but no LEA has so far introduced the change into all of its schools.

The NASUWT is vehemently opposed to the idea. At the conference on Friday, delegates condemned it, and demanded that any moves to introduce it be stopped immediately.

They said there was no conclusive research to prove it would have any educational benefits, and that it would cause a long list of problems.

These included disruption of the curriculum and exam system, and a worsening of the teacher recruitment and retention problem.

Time to 'de-stress'

National executive member Paul Mundt said: "A short summer break would not give us time to de-stress, to stabilise.

"It's time to nail the myth of the five-term year. All it is is change for change's sake. There's no logical research or educational reasons why we should do that.

"We all know that we need an extended end of year, to de-stress, to wind down, to look forward to getting away and getting out of school so that we can survive.

"We need to end all cloud cuckoo land discussions of such an absurd topic."

Jules Donaldson, of the Sandwell association, said that proposals to introduce the five-term year were an "insidious" way of imposing a heavier workload on teachers, who would lose an extra five days a year if they worked for five eight-week "modules" instead of three terms.

The six-week summer break was also vital for teachers

"How many colleagues have you heard say 'I really need those six weeks. It takes me to weeks to totally unwind to try to start to have a holiday'? "

Speaking to journalists later, Mr de Gruchy dismissed research which had been put forward by supporters of the five-term year, trying to prove its benefits to teachers and pupils.

He said that most research was based on schools in the United States which had introduced "dozens and dozens" of other education initiatives as well.

In this country, city technology colleges which had adopted the five-term year had also executed lots of other reforms, and had more resources than other schools.

See also:

18 Jun 99 | UK Education
27 Feb 00 | UK Education
22 Oct 98 | UK Education
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