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Tuesday, 11 January, 2000, 15:21 GMT
Five-term year 'could make school fun'

beach The five-term year would mean an end to the long summer holiday

Switching to a five-term school year could help put some "fun" back into education, it has been suggested.

Suppose you did have a five-term year. Four terms could be given to David Blunkett and one to Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary
Inquiry chairman Chris Price
Chris Price, the chairman of an inquiry into the benefits of adopting a five-term system, 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".

The former Labour MP and principal of Leeds Metropolitan University has been appointed to head a commission set up by the Local Government Association (LGA), which launched the inquiry on Tuesday.

At the launch, he dismissed the existing "medieval" system which includes the long school summer holidays, which were valued by teachers as their "last remaining perk", but the bane of many parents' lives.

Woodlands Primary pupils Woodlands Primary School switched to a five-term year in September
Many struggled to keep their children occupied during the long summer break, when holiday prices were at their peak, he said.

Supporters of switching from a three-term to a five-term school year say that a larger number of shorter, more evenly spaced holidays would be better for both teachers and pupils, as they would reduce stress, and children would have a greater chance of remembering what they learn from one term to the next.

But teaching unions are against the idea, and although a number of local education authorities have considered changing to the five-term year, none have actually done so yet.

Pioneering school

One primary school - Woodlands, in Grimsby, north-east Lincolnshire - is pioneering the new system, which consists of five eight-week terms with four two-week breaks, and a four-week summer holiday.

The school introduced the five-term year in September. North East Lincolnshire Education Authority may apply the new system to the 82 schools in the region in September 2001 if it turns out to be successful on both an academic and practical level.

Some city technology colleges and former grant-maintained schools have also varied the traditional school year.

This commission seems to be starting off in cloud cuckoo land. It would be well advised to get its feet back on earth.
Union leader Nigel de Gruchy
East Sussex education authority came close to adopting the system, proposing to make the change in all its schools from this September. But the proposal was dropped after public consultation showed that 73% of the 23,000 people questioned were opposed to it.

Mr Price said the inquiry would examine all possibilities, including bringing forward the exam season from the final to the penultimate school term.

Moving exams from May and June to April and May could ease the present scramble for university places, and leave a new summer term for a broader curriculum.

Strike action threat

Schools in some Scandinavian countries had already introduced the concept of "sloydd" - space within the school year free from academic work when children could choose activities for themselves.

Critics of the government's standards revolution already say it puts too much emphasis on the basics, and not enough on creativity.

Mr Price said on Tuesday: "Suppose you did have a five-term year. Four terms could be given to David Blunkett and one to Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary."

But Nigel de Gruchy, General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, made clear the union's "implacable" opposition to any move to "rob" teachers of their holidays.

"This would be the last straw, to impose this change on teachers on the back of successive changes in recent years, with no evidence that it would have any beneficial effect," he said.

"We have already said we would back teachers opposing this, up to strike action if necessary. This commission seems to be starting off in cloud cuckoo land. It would be well advised to get its feet back on earth.
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See also:
03 Jan 00 |  Education
Inquiry to consider five-term year
10 Sep 99 |  Education
Primary school begins five-term year
14 Jul 99 |  Education
Primary school adopts five-term year
23 Jul 99 |  Correspondents
Five-term year might still be on
18 Jun 99 |  Education
Decision day for schools' summer holiday
08 Apr 99 |  unions99
Teachers reject five-term year

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