Short-term booster

Primary heads favour the five-term year model. David Budge reports.

MOST primary heads would consider scrapping the traditional academic calendar, judging by new research which will be welcomed by advocates of a five-term school year.

Recent research in the United States has found "year-round" schools fare no better than those sticking to three terms (TES, Research Focus, May 19). But a head working with the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside has discovered primary heads are "overwhelmingly well-disposed" to a five-term year.

In the Lincolnshire-wide survey, 83 per cent of heads were willing to change and only 15 per cent were wholly opposed.

Heads who favour reform are attracted by the idea of predictable term dates, avoiding learning loss during the long summer break and less tiring working pattern for teachers and pupils.

Most of the 130 heads surveyed felt terms of eight weeks would help curriculum planning, and a five-term year would boost learning.

A similar proportion thought shorter terms, regular two-week breaks and a four-week holiday would relieve the stress.

Gini Smith, head of Branston infants, Lincoln, who conducted the survey, said:

"Heads recognised that the five-term year represents the same number ofworking days as the three-term year, though a few were suspicious that staff would be required to work longer."

One sceptical head said: "The five-term year would be something like five eight-week terms. If this is the case, and there are no half-terms, then this would increase the amount of teaching time between holidays. In the present climate, most teachers would not want this."

A head of a church school feared pupils might have to attend school over Easter, although where schools operate a five-term year, this is not usually a problem because Good Friday and Easter Monday are preserved as holidays.

But Gini Smith said heads were more likely to complain that the present system, with long terms, makes parents more likely to take children away from school to go on holiday.

Travel industry spokesmen say four-week school holidays would increase traffic congestion and raise summer package tour costs. If schools are to adopt five-term years, the holidays should vary from region to region, they told a Local Government Association inquiry into the school-year issue.

Chris Price, the inquiry chairman, has said the LGA would put children's interests first when drawing up its recommendations, which are expected to be published in July.

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