Cut holidays to aid pupils, schools told

16th October 2009 at 01:00
Shorter summer break would help disadvantaged students, report advises

School summer holidays should be slashed to four weeks and the day extended by two hours to improve results, a report is to recommend.

The timetable's overhaul is being proposed among a raft of reforms to raise the attainment of Northamptonshire's lowest-achieving pupils.

The report, to be presented to the council next month, says a six- or seven-week summer break is causing students to regress. Extending the day to 5.30pm to include "homework" time could also improve performance, it says.

"Many people consider seven weeks' holiday in the summer far too long," it states. "It creates problems for working parents, children become bored and there is evidence each week results in regression."

Ron Sawbridge, the report's author and chair of the council's children and young people scrutiny committee, is advocating the model of Brooke Weston school in Corby, which has five terms a year, each followed by a two-week holiday.

Some UK schools have experimented with different times, but if the proposals are accepted it would be the first time such changes are adopted wholesale. Mr Sawbridge said overall holidays would remain the same but be spread over the year.

Last year, 45.4 per cent of Northamptonshire's pupils achieved five good GCSEs including English and maths against a national average of 47.6 per cent.

Mr Sawbridge said that improvements had been made over the past five years but not quickly enough.

"There are so many underachieving children not getting adequate qualifications," he said. "We have to come up with radical ways to improve outcomes. I am confident the council and schools will be receptive to the recommendations. A lot could be implemented quickly."

The report also suggests the introduction of a "modern apprenticeship" to attract top graduates, calls on secondaries to introduce setting in Year 7 and for cover teachers to be banned from the bottom sets to ensure less bright pupils have consistent teaching.

Hilary Bucky, eastern regional secretary for teaching union the NUT, said: "I have heard the arguments before that children forget things in a long summer break, but research shows that is not a valid argument.

"Changing the term times in one authority would also be a logistical nightmare for teachers who have children or partners at schools in different authorities."

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