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Friday, June 18, 1999 Published at 02:18 GMT 03:18 UK


Decision day for schools' summer holiday

East Sussex is likely to reject proposals for a five-term year

East Sussex is about to decide whether to become the first education authority to adopt a five-term year for its schools - which would mean cutting the long summer holiday.

The traditional six-week holiday could be replaced by a break of a month. East Sussex County Council will make its decision on Friday.

However the council's Director of Education, Denise Stokoe, has indicated she is opposed to the proposal for a five-term year. She said it is likely that the change will be rejected.

[ image: The long break dates back to when children helped at harvest time]
The long break dates back to when children helped at harvest time
The council has undertaken a survey of local opinion on changing the school year and has found widespread opposition to the five-term year. Of 23,000 responses, almost three quarters were against.

But there could still be less radical changes, as the council has found support among the public for making the existing three terms of more equal length.

The council's cabinet committee will take a vote on any changes to the school year on Friday, with the decision going forward for approval to the full county council at the end of the month.

Teachers' unions have opposed the prospect of losing the long summer holiday. They have threatened industrial action against the introduction of five-term years.

'The last perk of teaching'

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) voted at its annual conference to defend the long summer holiday, described by a delegate as the "last perk of teaching".

The change in the school year is being considered in response to concerns that the long summer holiday disrupts the development of children's education.

There have also been claims that shorter terms and more frequent breaks would reduce the strain on teachers and pupils.

[ image: The NASUWT, led by Nigel de Gruchy, says it will take industrial action to defend the long summer holiday]
The NASUWT, led by Nigel de Gruchy, says it will take industrial action to defend the long summer holiday
Critics of the long summer holiday have said that it is an out-of-date legacy of an agricultural past, when children were needed to help with the harvest, and that it does not represent the most effective use of the time available.

While East Sussex seems unlikely to opt for five terms, other councils have expressed an interest in the idea. The London boroughs of Newham and Croydon, Bradford, Bristol and Thurrock are also considering changing their school years.

Greensward School in Hockley, Essex, has already decided to move to a five-term year from January 2000.

Pupils at the secondary school will have five eight-week terms, divided by four two-week holidays and a month's holiday in the summer.

The school's Headteacher, David Triggs, said: "Eight or nine weeks of concentrated learning followed by a short holiday will enable students to apply maximum concentration and motivation."

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