Vanguard primary set to wash away summer break
A school in the first batch of primaries to adopt academy status is already planning a series of big changes, including a complete restructuring of the school year.
Headteacher Warren Harrison has changed the name of the 400-pupil school in Milton Keynes from the Eaton Mill Foundation School to the Premier Academy.
Mr Harrison said plans to reduce the summer holiday to four weeks would both help deprived pupils' education and give parents the chance to avoid peak holiday prices.
In a parent consultation, 90 per cent of respondents backed the idea.
Mr Harrison said: "It would allow parents the opportunity to take children on holiday outside the standard local authority half-term holidays when the travel industry hikes the price up. We believe holidays are really important for families.
"If we had a four-week summer holiday, there would also be a huge educational advantage. The longer children are off school, the more they forget. When they come back after six weeks, the first couple of weeks are spent relearning what they did six weeks ago."
The school's proposal for 201112 is effectively to change to a six-term structure with three two-week half terms - this would involve taking back two weeks from the summer break and shortening the Christmas break to 10 or 11 days.
The move comes as Frank Field, Labour MP and David Cameron's poverty "czar", is reported to have come out in support of the idea of a shorter summer holiday. He told The Times that the long holiday worked against disadvantaged children who had less help at home.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the school leaders' union was open to the idea.
He said: "We are not opposed to discussion about changing holidays and looking at more modern ways of structuring them. I could not say we support a four-week holiday. But we do not object, on principle, to a more radical look at school terms. But the exact shortening and where we would put those days back into the term is another matter.
"I don't think there is a visceral opposition to it; what there is, is an appreciation of the difficulty of moving towards it."
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Daycare Trust, said: "Holiday childcare is not only highly expensive, but also increasingly difficult to find. There is also a strong educational case for schools moving to a four-week summer holiday.
"However, shortening the school holidays will not solve the problem of holiday childcare which will still be needed at several points across the year. We need a comprehensive approach from the Government to invest in more holiday and wraparound childcare."
The move also raises another issue - whether a single standardised school year is possible as more schools get the freedom to set their own term dates.