Back to School: Two-week October break could be introduced as schools aim to avoid holiday dates free-for-all

PUBLISHED: 11:36 04 September 2014 | UPDATED: 11:36 04 September 2014

Norfolk school leaders are hoping to agree a plan for a common school calendar within the next two months. Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Norfolk school leaders are hoping to agree a plan for a common school calendar within the next two months. Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire

A two-week October break is one of two options being considered as Norfolk schools and colleges try to avoid a chaotic free-for-all when every school is given the power to set its own term dates.

Young people’s views on school holiday proposals

I would say young people would like the original school holiday better just because they don’t like change much. However I think the shorter summer school break would benefit everyone as children wouldn’t get bored and have little to do!

Emily Fox, 15

I prefer the idea of having two weeks in October because the summer holidays I feel are too long. Also knowing the dates of the Easter holidays are the same would be great for booking holidays. I understand people love their summer but I would prefer two weeks of instead of one.

Connor Lake, 15

On the one hand, it would create a more even spread of school and holidays, which could be good for students who find it hard to cope with long terms. However, I like how the school holidays are now as they give students enough time to relax before a new school year.

Kristina Fox, 14

The government’s Deregulation Bill, currently going through Parliament, would remove the local authority’s ability to set the school year for most schools, and hand it to individual governing bodies.

Some types of schools, including academies, already have this power.

Poll: Which option for the future of the Norfolk school year do you support?

A shorter summer holiday and longer October break could be introduced.A shorter summer holiday and longer October break could be introduced.

Leaders of Norfolk’s primary schools, secondary schools and colleges have been meeting since January to try to agree a common school year they could all adopt, and avoid parents facing different holiday dates for children at different schools.

Speaking earlier this summer, Sarah Shirras, chairman of the Norfolk Primary Headteachers’ Association, said: “The working group discovered that what secondary and primary schools would want are different.”

A key sticking point was the idea of a two-week break in October, with some primary schools worried it was too long for four-year-olds who they had just settled into the school environment.

Two options will now be put to schools in a consultation this term, with leaders hoping to reach agreement within the next two months.

One option would see the summer holiday reduced from six weeks to five, and the October half-term increased from one week to two.

The other option would be similar to the current arrangements.

Both options include a fixed, two-week holiday to replace the currently moveable Easter Holiday - with Good Friday and Easter Monday usually forming a four-day weekend - and a period at the end of July to help children make the transition from primary to secondary school.

Brian Conway, headteacher of Notre Dame High School in Norwich and chairman of Norfolk Secondary Education Leaders, said: “It’s just a question of what the length of the half term will be in October. That will go to a wider consultation. We don’t know what the outcome will be.”

He added: “The fixed [Easter] holiday means the length of the terms can be fixed. You don’t have the very short half term where you can hardly get started with teaching, and it’s better for students in terms of continuity.

“It will help parents because they will be able to make plans for Easter holidays well in advance.”

Even if an agreement was reached, it would be voluntary and individual schools could still set their own dates.

However, he said one powerful motive for schools to agree a common approach is school transport arrangements made by Norfolk County Council, which has indicated it will cater for the calendar endorsed by the majority of Norfolk schools.

Mr Conway added: “The challenge is going to be if we had schools where there are weeks of difference. That’s the case in some areas, and that’s what we don’t want to happen in Norfolk. We want it to be so everyone is very, very similar so we don’t have the inconvenience you have in other parts of the country.”

Legally, schools must provide 190 teaching days a year, and any changes are not expected to come into effect until September 2016 at the earliest.

Last month, East Anglian tourism bosses warned that businesses could close if schools were allowed to axe the long summer holiday.

A total of 24 leisure leaders, including Martin Dupée, director of the Zoological Society of East Anglia, which is behind Banham Zoo, signed a letter to a national newspaper which said the tourism industry relies on the six-week break for its success.

What do you think of the proposals? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email


  • Angie Hatton, unfortunately your suggestion has one major flaw, the Government and Ofsted wouldn't take the approach that it's the parents fault their children don't do well because they've been taken out of school for holiday. They would say still blame schools for not being strict enough with parents. As a working parent I prefer the idea of a fixed Easter break, a slightly shorter summer holiday and a couple of weeks in October. The autumn term is really long and by the time my child gets to Christmas he is totally shattered. And as for those who moan that the weather isn't any good for holidays, that's not really an argument not to have time off; October is often quite nice but if you want to go abroad it is still warm enough to go the Med and Canaries. Or if you want to holiday in the UK there's plenty to do; I actually prefer the norfolk seaside in the winter: just stick on some wellies and warm clothing and you can still have a great time. While I don't disagree with Daisy Root's observations about the curriculum, I'm not sure what the problem is with finishing and starting part way through a week; many holidays start and finish on days other than Monday and Friday. I can't imagine there are many employers who dictate that employees have to book complete weeks for their holidays, so what's the issue?

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    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • Daisy Roots: you are right about 'never mind the quality' in a lot of cases. And there is little common sense in what we believe in teaching to children - so much is outdated, like the holiday system. I agree with Angie - there is a lot to be learnt out of school, providing the parents are up to caring for their own children.

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    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • I'm always amazed at the naivety of people who think moving the school holidays will make the prices cheaper. All that will happen is that the travel companies will raise their prices across a longer period, knowing that parents have no choice. Fixed holidays at Easter are a good idea as it allows working parents to plan breaks better. A two-week October half term will not benefit people as the weather is too inclement to go out for the day, unless you can afford to go abroad.

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    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • I think and this is only my opinion.... That parents should be allowed to take their children out of school for holidays when they like, for the simple reason it's cheaper, if their child's education suffers and they don't do well at school then the parents only have themselves to blame.... I have taken my kids out of school for holidays, my eldest is just starting his 4 year apprenticeship and my other child wants to be a chef, which she knows she has to work hard to get where she wants to be.... So i don't see the problem

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    Angie Hatton

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • If it could be arranged on a national basis, a staggered shorter summer holiday has the potential to spread demand for tourism over a longer period. Making all other periods of holiday two weeks of five days long makes sense from a parents point of view. But I do sympathise with primary teachers who have to force indulged children to grow up and see that growth slide back again when the child is given back to it's "parents".

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    George Ezekial

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • I love my children's schools holiday times they have 2 weeks off every 6 weeks no easter shorter summer no moaning because they are bored I would like to we say holidays are cheaper but if they all change holiday company's will just put all the prices up all year

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    Sarah Farrow-Fyfe Cert Hsc

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • As a parent I think the option of a fixed Easter would be a better option. I don't want to see the 6 week holiday reduced as I hate it when my children go back to school but end on a Friday and return Mondays. As for 2 weeks in october, for me that is a no as the weather is bad and I can't take them away or do anything with them. Also Christmas, a few extra days before Christmas can make a difference as well as a few days after. Extend that if a holiday needs extending!

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    local lass

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

  • I dont expect any parents will hold their breath waiting for heads and governors to act sensibly. As I pointed out on an earlier article , this summer saw the above show a contempt for the problems parents face when arranging holidays by arranging the summer vacation with part weeks at either end instead of finishing on a Friday or starting on a Monday-thereby ruling at least week out from those possible to use for a holiday without falling foul of the new rules. A longer holiday in October is no good to those wanting to holiday in the UK-it can be nice but it can be cold-and again, it needs to be complete weeks. Schools in France only open four days a week-maybe four and a half tops. We have a never mind the quality feel the time served approach to education, with schools run for the convenience of management running in fear of league tables and a curriculum set by those who seem to have no understanding of child development as researched by people like Piaget. eg the demands that 5 year olds learn fractions in maths could be pointless because some may not be at a developmental stage where they can appreciate the concept, no matter how intelligent. Running before they can walk and a curriculum based on parroting rather than understanding will not help our children and nor will giving schools a free hand with holidays because they can no longer be trusted to respect anyone.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site


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