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The BBC's Sue Littlemore reports
"One radical proposal today is for exams to be taken about a month earlier"
 real 56k

Author of the report, Principal Chris Price
"A quite organic report"
 real 28k

The BBC's John Thorne at Woodlands School in Grimsby
where five week terms have already been introduced
 real 56k

Friday, 1 September, 2000, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Six-term school year proposed
School playground
Schools would have fixed Easter holidays
Six terms a year, earlier A-levels and help for hayfever sufferers are proposed in a report on the reform of the school year.

The report, published on Friday, calls for an increased number of shorter terms, in a radical departure from the traditional pattern of three terms and a long summer holiday.

Proposed changes
Six terms a year
Two-week October break
Two-week Spring break
Six week summer holiday from July to mid-August
A-levels and GCSEs in April and May
A-level results before university applications
University 'clearing' would be greatly reduced
But the government has refused to support or oppose the proposals, saying that it is a question for schools, universities and local authorities.

The proposals for reform in English schools, based on the evidence submitted to an inquiry organised by the Local Government Association earlier this year, would mean A-levels being taken in April and May.

This could allow pupils to know their grades before applying to university and would greatly reduce the current "clearing" system for students who fail to make the grades they need for their offered places.

University chiefs are set to follow up the report with an investigation into how this might be put into practice - after previous failed attempts at achieving this.

Hayfever

Under the proposed reforms, there would be a two-week fixed spring break, regardless of where Easter fell - and both A-levels and GCSEs would be moved back to April and May.

As well as simplifying university applications, this would be intended to help pupils with hayfever, who at present have to revise and take exams when their condition can be at its worst.

Under this system, there would still be a six-week summer break, but it could begin earlier than at present.

And in a measure likely to be approved by the tourism industry, there are proposals for summer holidays to be staggered in different regions, so that there is less overcrowding in peak times and a more even spread of times at which families can travel.

But teachers' unions have offered the proposals a mixed welcome, with little support for breaking up the current pattern of holidays.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) says it is "profoundly sceptical" of the need for change and the National Union of Teachers remains unconvinced by the proposals.

But both the Secondary Heads Association and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers have given cautious welcomes to the suggestions.

As well as tackling the widely-acknowledged problem of university applications coming before exam results, the report wants to create a school year with a greater continuity of learning.

Learning loss

There have been claims that pupils suffer from "learning loss" in the three long holidays - in which pupils slip back from the attainment levels of term-time.

The inquiry chairman, Chris Price, a former MP and university vice-chancellor, says the report is an attempt to set up a school year that matches plans to raise standards and widen participation in higher education.

The report argues that if pupils have their exam grades before they apply to university this will encourage more state school pupils to enter higher education and to apply to more prestigious universities.

There have been claims that the present application system, based on predicted grades and interviews, works in favour of ambitious, confident private school pupils.

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Should there be a six-term year for schools?
See also:

31 Aug 00 | Education
Scotland sets pace for change
10 Sep 99 | Education
Primary school begins five-term year
10 Sep 99 | Education
Unions oppose five-term year
03 Jan 00 | Education
Inquiry to consider five-term year
23 May 00 | Education
Holiday change risks airport chaos
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