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A SMOOTHER PATTERN TO THE SCHOOL YEAR CAN HELP RAISE EDUCATION STANDARDS, SAYS INDEPENDENT COMMISSION

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The Local Government Association's Independent Commission on the Organisation of the School Year drew to a close la...
The Local Government Association's Independent Commission on the Organisation of the School Year drew to a close last month as their recommendations for the greater standardisation of school term and holiday times were handed over to a new LGA Standing Committee.

Chris Price, chairman of the commission said:

'The patterns of terms and holidays in schools across the country have always been incredibly diverse and the LGA's aim to achieve a smoother pattern of schooling is the first of its kind and one I believe could have many benefits for pupils, parents and teachers.

'The commission has carried out extensive consultations with the hope of putting forward a number of detailed recommendations for school terms and holidays and I'm delighted that we have now reached a situation where there is a broad consensus over several issues.

'We are not looking for total standardisation. But we are strongly urging schools to set the most similar school years possible, while keeping some flexibility regarding the placement of professional development days in individual schools.

'I am confident that if the pattern is followed, we can see standards in the education of schoolchildren increase, and the stress levels of teachers reduce. It may also go someway towards preventing parent-condoned absence during school time.'

The recommendations made by the independent commission include continuing the current responsibilities of LEAs, foundation schools and voluntary aided schools for setting the school year whilst encouraging as much standardisation as possible and leaving issues of detail to individual schools.

It also recommends that the school year should be treated as six blocks of teaching time rather than three terms and that the four blocks after Christmas should be even in length regardless of the official Easter period.

Many schools and LEAs have stated they would welcome the fixing of a definite two-week holiday at Easter. It would mean that the official Easte r period could fall either at the beginning, middle or end of the holiday.

The standard school year would broadly maintain current arrangements across the country - two holidays of two weeks at Christmas and Easter, a long summer break and three of at least one week in October, February and May or June.

October and November are the months when pupil and teacher absences are highest and the commission has recommended for 2004-5 a slightly longer holiday in this period to tackle the problem.

Giving schools the freedom to choose when they have professional development days means they can determine whether to have a summer holiday of six weeks or an October holiday of two weeks.

The LGA Standing Committee on the School Year, chaired by Chris Price and comprising representatives from across the education spectrum will meet in the summer and early autumn to discuss draft holiday dates for the school year 2005-6 and beyond. The LGA will, having considered the advice received at these discussions, present a recommendation to schools for the school year 2005-6 in December 2003.

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