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ALL LEA'S URGED TO OPT FOR A STANDARD SCHOOL YEAR

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Local education authorities throughout England are being urged to take up ...
Local education authorities throughout England are being urged to take up

the Local Government Association's recommendation to adopt a Standard School

Year from September 2005.

In a letter to all local authority chief executives, Sir Brian Briscoe,

chief executive of the LGA urged all councils to give 'serious

consideration' to moving towards a school year which will provide more even

teaching and learning blocks, and year-on-year predictability.

The recommended school year calendar - which was unanimously agreed by the

LGA's Education and Lifelong Learning Executive - follows extensive

consultation and discussions.

Chris Price, Chair of the LGA Standing Committee on the School Year, which

looked into the Standard School Year and comprised of representatives from

many interested organisations, including the main teacher associations,

said: 'We believe that the proposals we have put forward to schools will

help create a better framework for planning the curriculum and its

assessment and a more balanced and predictable pattern of teaching and

learning for both young people and teachers in our schools. National

consultations have shown very high levels of support, and many local

authorities have already indicated that they would be keen to see a change

for the better in the current school calendar.

'I am confident that the move towards a standardised school year will gain

increasing momentum in LEAs plans for 2005-06 and succeeding years.'

In addition to the standardisation of term lengths and predictability of

holiday dates, the Standard School Year offers a range of other benefits.

It would help to reduce the problem of siblings attending different schools

having different holidays, and enable parents working in schools to share

common holiday periods with their children.

It is also anticipated that reducing the lengthy school term in the run up

to Christmas could help minimise the level of absence s reported among pupils

and teachers at this time of year.

The move will also help to save local authorities money in terms of

organising home to school transport by enabling them to establish consistent

contracts where the days that transport is required are clearly defined and

the same across neighbouring authorities.

With only slight changes, the Standard School Year framework could also help

the introduction of post-qualification admission to higher education.

The initiative, currently being considered by the government, would mean

that pupils could sit exams in May, receive their results in July and then

apply to university with the knowledge of their grades. It would see an end

to the current system of provisional offers being made, and the summer

scramble of the clearing process once final results are announced in August.

Under plans released by the LGA, this would leave the period after exams

free to prepare pupils for the next stages of their education, the beginning

of their careers or for other subjects which are sometimes squeezed to fit

around the current curriculum.

Graham Lane, chair of the LGA's education and lifelong learning executive, said: 'There has been overwhelming support for equalising

teaching time so that schools have terms no longer than seven weeks in

length before breaking for a holiday. This would not just help to reduce

stress, but enable learning to be planned better too.

'Organising the school year for the 21st Century is another part of the

raising standards agenda. It gives greater stability to parents, pupils and

teachers by introducing predictability into the school year.

'And importantly, this can be achieved without shortening the summer

holiday. We know that this has been an issue of concern to some

organisations, but the Standard School Year has never been about reducing

the six week break, and the calendar we have now put forward illustrates

this.'

Local c ouncils set their own school year in consultation with local schools

and communities. So far, 35 out of a total 154 LEAS have informed the LGA

of their support of the principle of a Standard School Year, and eight are

looking to implement a similar school year as early as next September.

Comments from supporters of the Standard School Year

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said:

'The Standard School Year represents a real benefit for pupils, teachers and

parents - particularly the longer break in October and the fixed April

holiday - both of which would bring a much better balance to the school

year.'

Frank Green, headteacher of The Leigh City Technology College in Kent, has

been operating a Six Term Year Pattern since Jan 1999. He believes that it

has had enormous benefits for pupils, and has been popular with parents.

About to enter into its fifth year, most pupils at the college can't

remember life any other way, but the head boy and girl, Sam Proctor and

Kelly Palmer, are full of praise for the calendar.

Sam Proctor, head boy at the Leigh, said: 'The two weeks [at Easter] is

wonderful.'

Kelly Palmer, head girl at The Leigh, said: 'I really like the regularity

of it - knowing when I'm going to be here, and when I'm not.'

Notes

1. A copy of the recommended Standard School Year Calendar for September

2005, as proposed by the Local Government Association, is vailable here.

2. A copy of the letter sent by LGA Chief Executive, Sir Brian Briscoe, is

available here.

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