Consultation on Six Term Year 2005-06
Do we agree with the independent commissions recommendation on the organisation of the school year ? NO
The recommendations appear very confused. If only a national scheme will command general assent, why are regional variations (or "staggering") suggested.
Those writing the report seem unaware that making a break mid-week to mid-week represents a drop in the length of that break of nearly twenty-five per cent compared with a complete week.
This is also true of the proposed two week October break. Five day breaks which are not contiguous with the calendar week are inefficient at giving teachers relief whilst also creating ineffective teaching periods.
The comments on flexibility are singularly unhelpful. It is important that all term dates are negotiated and established well in advance. This has generally worked at an LEA level, although discrepancies have crept in, but the majority of schools will not be in a position to vary this. As an example, CPD must clearly be in term time, yet in an annual appraisal system, INSET needs cannot sensibly be considered eighteen months to two years in advance. Any variation needs to be the consent of individuals and facilities for that exist already and would not be enhanced by these changes.
Reducing the length of the Summer break will require attendance at school in conditions least conducive to study. It is also the time when most families will wish to travel, particularly those who visit families abroad; so the result is likely to be greater absence and hence a lowering of achievement. British schools are not air conditioned and it is historically because of climate and travel needs that we have had a six week break (or longer - most Western countries have a longer recess).
This is not the first time that we have had these discussions. We have previously discussed the four term year and the five term year. Maybe the next suggestion will be splitting the Autumn term in three and having a seven term year. The point is that each time the subject is broached it is clear that there is no rational argument in favour of the change. The supposed research purporting to support the proposals have been repeatedly demonstrated to show no such thing. The fact that the documents no longer even bother to refer to such research is significant (if admittedly more honest ~ simply stating what the panel believes). To suggest such major changes without firm reasons is simply pandering to politicians who wish to be seen to be making an impact.
Finally, the answers that ministers give depend on the questions they are asked, and even in that context they are not always reliable. To say that when the Autumn term begins is the choice of LEAs is disingenuous. Teachers are required to be available for work 195 days in each year. Teachers may have agreed to be flexible so as to agree sensible term start dates, but expecting them to return practically two weeks early without recompense is naive in the extreme.
Do we agree with the recommendation for the six term school year to start in 2003-04?
The term dates have already been set for 2003-04 in conjunction with neighbouring boroughs. We do not agree with any variation, so no further consultation with other parties is possible.
Do we agree with CEA@Islingtons recommendation for the six-term year to start in 2005-06?
Firstly we presume that the proposal is only in the context of all LEAs at least within the London region and more likely nationally.
We are presently in the middle of a recruitment and retention crisis and any attempt to impose changes on teachers pay and conditions can only worsen this.
We note that point (8) "Wont term six be wasted ?" highlights the pointlessness of the proposed change. "Transition" affects only one out of seven primary year groups and year nine students do not need six weeks of careers advice. We have always queried the validity of the "memory loss" argument, but the transfer of a half term formally to other activities would mean eleven-twelve consecutive weeks without the full curriculum.
Changes can only be considered in the light of the funding and arrangements put in place to make them possible.
It is presumed that the structure of the teaching year will change, without considering how much extra work would be generated by doing this.
It is not clear whether transition arrangements would be put in place, if teachers and support staff would receive financial recompense or if it is hoped that agreement would be part of a larger package.
If a larger proportion of students are going to be absent during teaching time, strategies should be in place to minimise the effect on their schooling.
We expect the pressure to reduce workload to have an effect in the near future. The amount of time available for directed work will reduce and in this context any activity aimed at initiatives not directly related to students learning can only reduce the time, energy and enthusiasm available to benefit our students.
In contrast there is no evidence to suggest that benefits would automatically follow.
The present system at least provides punctuation and variation throughout the school year. The danger of creating a feeling of relentlessness without the opportunity to have extended time away from school must not be underestimated.
We are not aware of any significant support amongst teachers for these proposals, indeed across London and the rest of the country members are mobilising against them and LEAs are receiving the clear message that such a change would not be welcome.
Handing back the five "Baker Days", however, could be used to extend the Autumn break, for example, without reducing the teaching time available.
Islington NASUWT Secretary
6th July 2002
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