Barnsley to Bring in shorter School Summer Holidays

3 June 2016, 17:12 | Updated: 3 June 2016, 17:32

Barnsley Town Hall

A teachers' union has described plans by a local authority to reduce its school summer holiday to five weeks as a "recipe for chaos''

Barnsley Council, has published term dates for the academic year 2017-18 - which include a shortened summer break and a two-week half-term holiday in October.

The council said the changes would help children's education by avoiding "learning loss'' over the traditional long summer holiday.

But Ian Stevenson, regional secretary for the National Union of Teachers, described the theory as "dubious''.

Mr Stevenson said: "I think that these proposals are ill-thought-out and ill-considered.

"I think any changes to the school holiday pattern has to be for the benefit of children and their education and I don't see how these changes do that. They're based on the dubious basis of learning loss.''

He added: "We don't accept this notion of learning loss, or that it's significant or that it has any educational merit.''

Mr Stevenson said the proposed eight-week summer term would be difficult for younger children to cope with and said parents and teachers with children at schools where the new system was not implemented would also face difficulties.

"It doesn't make sense to change one local authority's holiday pattern. It's a recipe for chaos,'' he said. "It's an experiment really. It doesn't make sense for Barnsley.''

Barnsley Council is not the first local authority to suggest a change to term dates.

Strikes by teachers in 2012 led to Nottingham City Council scrapping plans for a five-term academic year and suggesting a three-term year with a short summer holiday in its place.

Mr Stevenson said it was too early to suggest strike action in Barnsley - but said he believed opposition was likely to come from teachers, parents, councillors and community groups.

He said: "We are going to go back to our members and talk to them. Our initial response is to go back to the council to talk to them about getting involved in consultations.

"We think their plans are ill-conceived. We think that they need to go out to make wider consultation than they've currently done.''

Councillor Tim Cheetham, of Barnsley Council, said: ``We are committed to ensuring every child in Barnsley has the opportunity to reach their full potential and get the best out of their education.

"The decision to alter the borough's term times and holiday dates is based on sound research evidence that shows the maximum length of the summer break should be no more than five weeks for the best educational outcomes.''

He added: "The main differences to this year's dates from previous years will support educational outcomes for pupils by reducing the long summer break, which can lead to learning loss.''

Cllr Cheetham said the plans had been made with full consultation and met with a "largely positive response'' from parents.

He said the new term dates had potential economic benefits and advantages for working parents and would distribute holiday weeks more evenly throughout the school year.