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Spate of days off creates 'perfect storm'

Some pupils will attend school for only six days this month and attendance will not improve significantly in May, with Scottish elections, two bank holidays and in-service days thrown into the mix.

Thanks to the diktats of the lunisolar calendar, the moveable feast of Easter falls on the latest possible date, with Good Friday on 22 April and Easter Monday on 25 April.

While some authorities have elided their two-week spring holiday with the Easter days off (Edinburgh and the Lothians), others have stuck to an unofficial agreement to make the first two weeks of April a fixed holiday, bringing pupils back for four days, off for two, then back for three, before being off again for the royal wedding on 29 April, though four authorities declined the last holiday.

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, describes the forthcoming spate of individual days off school as "disruptive" and would rather see pupils viewing the royal wedding in school, allowing teachers to use the glittering occasion as a source for class discussion.

He is also concerned that a number of schools, who were particularly badly hit by closures in the winter, have been struggling to complete their Higher coursework in time and that this difficulty has been compounded by timetabling.

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, is one of a growing chorus of voices calling for greater harmonisation of holidays - not just for the sake of parents but particularly for teachers who are parents as well and live and work in different councils with different holiday patterns.

She is also concerned that pupils - and teachers - have sufficient days available for last-minute SQA exam revision, which can make a difference to a pupil's pass grade.

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, says the rash of holidays this year has created the "perfect storm" for many parents. In the case of her local authority (Scottish Borders), her son has Good Friday off school but not Easter Monday, while she does not work either. "So many parents are tied to statutory holidays - it just seems mad to me that some local authorities are bringing in kids when their parents are off."

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, believes there is an argument for a more regulated four-term year.

See page 39.

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