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Primary pioneers 5-term year

Teaching unions enraged as school ditches half-terms and long summer holidays. Clare Dean reports

A PRIMARY in Grimsby is to become the first school in the country to adopt the five-term year.

While councils across the country debate the merits - or otherwise - of tearing up the traditional academic calendar, Woodlands has already done so.

From September, the 360 three to 11-year-olds at the school will switch to a system which could herald big changes throughout England and Wales.

Out go half-terms and the long summer break which will be cut from six weeks to four. All other holidays will be standardised to a fortnight. In comes what headteacher Tom Wilson calls proper "recovery time" for teachers and pupils which he hopes will lead to better results.

The move has the backing of North East Lincolnshire council as well as governors and the bulk of teachers at the school, being created through the amalgamation of Bradley Park infant and junior.

Although only two of its 19 teachers objected, the move was widely criticised by the main teacher trade unions. Only one parent objected.

Teachers will continue to work the statutory 1,265 hours in a year and the arrangements for leaving and joining a school remain the same.

Mr Wilson said: "I feel that it is right - if I had any doubts I would wait for someone else to do it. It makes sense as far as the curriculum is concerned and it is also enhancing teachers' conditions of service." He proposed the changes after teachers complained about still being tired after the half-term break.

"The idea of a six-week summer holiday is crackers," said Mr Wilson. "The education research shows that a learning loss exists. What we want to do is make opportunities for teachers to work more effectively."

He may be convinced about the advantages of switching to five terms, but initially the move will be piloted only for a year. It will be externally evaluated.

Geoff Hill, education director for North East Lincolnshire, said he supports the move because of what has been said about regression taking place in the long holidays, but he recognises that the evidence is not substantial.

The dates for the five terms will be September 6 to October 22, November 4 to December 24, January 10 to March 3, April 20 to May 31 and June 1 to July 28.

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