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