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The long view

The suggestion by Edinburgh's education leader that there may be a case for an overhaul of school terms and holidays is not new, as Ewan Aitken himself acknowledges (see this page). Calendar reform moves up and down the agenda on an irregular basis, the last occasion in Scotland being Aberdeen's review in 1998-99 which led to no change. In England, the precise configuration Councillor Aitken suggests - five eight-week terms with two-week breaks in between and four weeks off in the summer - is precisely the arrangement which operated in some city technology colleges and which earned praise from teachers, pupils and parents.

It would be easy for this debate to be hijacked by the arguments for and against the long summer break. There is also the long summer term to consider and it could be argued that the present system pressurises teachers by creating peak periods of work. But the major argument for at least considering an alternative is that of "learning loss" - among the pupils, that is. As Brian Toner notes in his column opposite, the start of the August term is spent on revision and catching up.

The Scottish Executive, in its response to the education debate, committed Ministers to review the length of the school day. That would provide a perfect opportunity for reconsidering the structure of the school year as well.

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