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Six-term school term edges closer

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SCHOOLS in Kent could move to a six-term year from the autumn of 2003 in one of the biggest shake-ups in the county’s education system for decades.

County councillors have recommended that every one of the county’s 621 primary, secondary and special schools should switch to a six-term year.

If implemented, the radical proposal would make Kent the first education authority in the country in which schools broke “en masse” with the traditional three-term year.

The six-term proposal has come from an influential cross-party committee of county councillors, which has spent the last three months conducting an investigation into the case for change and taking evidence from heads, teachers, unions and others.

The move is certain to provoke controversy. Although two Kent secondary schools have already opted for a five-term year, a change on such a large scale has not been tested anywhere else in the country. KCC is already preparing a major consultation with parents, teachers and schools.

Most headteachers have, however, backed a change saying it could help drive up classroom standards, cut teacher and pupil stress and help planning the curriculum.

Teaching unions, on the other hand, are unhappy about the loss of a long summer holiday - traditionally regarded as a perk.

In their draft report councillors on the Education Scrutiny Committee conclude the six term pattern “offered the best opportunity to standardise term times. Evidence indicates this will reduce fatigue and improve curriculum planning.”

The report emphasises teachers would not lose any holiday entitlement and the summer break would still last at least five weeks.

It urges Kent not to waste time:

“The evidence in favour of change indicated a direct link to an improvement in conditions for pupils and teachers and there should be no delay in adopting a new pattern,” the report says.

In a survey commissioned as part of the inquiry, nearly 80 per cent of the 383 headteachers taking part agreed there was a case for change. Of those, some 56 per cent (214) supported a six-term year with 26 per cent (100) backing a five-term year.

Councillors said a five-term year was popular butt did not have “any demonstrable advantage over six terms and…would not suit primary pupils because terms would be too long and tiring.”

They also pointed out that it would mean a significant reduction in the summer holiday.

One of the biggest changes would be that the Spring break would no longer be based around the Easter holiday. However, schools would still have both Good Friday and Easter Monday off. Church school representatives on the committee say they would be happy for Easter to fall within term time.

Committee chairman Cllr Ronnie Norman (Con) pledged parents would be fully involved before any final decision: “This is an opportunity for the country as a whole as well as the county,” he said.

Another key change would be that schools could effectively start the school year in the term before the summer holiday, overcoming the problem of “wasted” term time once pupils have taken exams.

The recommendations will be discussed by KCC’s Conservative cabinet on Monday, April 22, when it will decide whether to press ahead with the plan.

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