Change of calendar could lead to a livelier curriculum;News;News amp; Opinion

12th November 1999 at 00:00
Neil Munro and David Henderson report from the annual Edinburgh conference, run by the TESS and the city council

MOVES to change the structure of terms and holidays open up wider issues, Professor Trevor Kerry, University of Lincolnshire and Humberside, said. Schools that seek more variety begin to question what they include in their curriculum.

Professor Kerry, a noted researcher on alternative calendars, said up to 50 authorities south of the border were considering changes to the traditional school year. He has already advised Aberdeen about possible options.

Only four city technology colleges in England had altered their pattern but "year-round education" was widespread in the United States where schools that used a five-term year reported increased educational benefits and had the backing of pupils, teachers and parents. Many had eight-week terms, broken by two-week holidays and a longer four-week break in the summer.

Professor Kerry said: "There is less stress, the curriculum is better organised and more appreciated by students and parents, and teachers get better results."

The impetus for change in America stemmed from research which showed considerable "summer learning loss" of 1.8 months in mathematics and up to four months in spelling. It was the disadvantaged who suffered most.

Continuous learning is more effective, he maintained. "Long terms generate long wind-down periods and long breaks require unnecessary revision time."

Teachers in England who had tried the change-over said regular terms and holidays made it easier to plan the curriculum and introduce modular approaches. Work was better focused and organised. They liked the two-week breaks and believed there was a better structure to the school year.

"The mythology is that teachers do not like it but they really do. There is tremendous goodwill towards the system," Professor Kerry said. A by-product appreciated by teachers and parents were the off-peak holidays.

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