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Friday, July 30, 1999 Published at 00:34 GMT 01:34 UK


Teachers' union blocks five-term year

The summer holiday would be cut in a five-term year

A teachers' union has rejected claims that a five-term year would raise standards in schools.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has told its members not to be pushed into accepting changes to the school year, when there was no evidence it would bring improvements in pupils' performance.

It has joined the two biggest teachers' unions in England and Wales - the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers - in opposing reorganisation of the school year.

[ image: Peter Smith has rejected claims that the summer holiday disrupts children's learning]
Peter Smith has rejected claims that the summer holiday disrupts children's learning
Several individual schools have switched to five shorter terms, rather than three terms with a long summer holiday, and a number of local authorities are considering the change.

East Sussex recently rejected the change to the school year after a public consultation exercise, which found a large majority of the public against scrapping the summer holiday and introducing five terms.

Anticipating further attempts to change the school year, the union has published guidance for its members - Changing the Pattern of the School Year - which casts doubts on the benefits of a five-term year.

'Summer learning loss'

The argument that having a much shorter summer holiday will reduce 'summer learning loss' - in which pupils forget what they have learnt in the previous term - has not been proven by research, the union says.

Looking at the evidence of schools which already operate five-term years, the ATL says their successes and failures are determined by much more complex factors than the shape of the school year.

Instead of "tinkering with structures", the union calls for a greater investment in teaching and the assessment of pupils, which are of greater significance than the length of holidays.

"There seems to be an over-eagerness from some quarters who believe that introducing ill thought-through schemes will elevate their position in the league tables.

"Raising standards stretches well beyond when pupils are taught. It is about what and how children are taught," said the union's general secretary, Peter Smith.

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