1369 respond to Stoke-on-Trent school terms consultation

Stoke-on-Trent school terms are set to remain the same after a 14 week consultation with parents, teaching and support staff, pupils, school governors, trade unions and other groups which got 1,369 responses.

The council’s cabinet will decide next week on the pattern for Stoke-on-Trent school terms for the next academic year 2013-14 and beyond, the recommendation put to the cabinet will be to stay with the traditional three-term system, with breaks for Easter and Christmas, and a six-week summer holiday.

Stoke-on-Trent school terms are set by the cabinet for all community and church controlled schools in the city while governing bodies of academies, foundation trust schools and church aided schools are responsible for establishing their schools’ term dates, but in previous years most of these schools have followed the council’s pattern.

The council had consulted on a number of alternatives for varying term lengths, in keeping with consultations by other local education authorities across the country, and had asked for opinions on options including re-introducing the Potters’ Fortnight, a five-term system, a ‘standard’ six-term pattern, and extending the Christmas break to three weeks.

Councillor Alan Dutton, cabinet member for education, said

We wanted the consultation to be as wide-ranging as possible, which is why we sought views on a number of different options and extended the consultation period to more than three months.

The feedback showed no clear preference for a particular pattern. Comments received were very mixed, some respondents felt that the council should only change the pattern of term dates if other local authorities did so, or if there was a national move to do so. Others felt there was no need to change; and others still could see the benefits to pupils and staff of different patterns.

There is very little research into different patterns of term dates and their effect on educational achievement. The Local Government Association set up a commission in 2000 which said there was a need to reform the school year, but saw no evidence of differences in educational standards between term times.

The consultation we have carried out is an important piece of work, because it tells us the views of a broad cross section of people affected.

We know that other councils are considering their school term times, and that Cheshire East, for example, has adopted the standardised six-term year.

We have to be mindful of what neighbouring authorities decide because of the impact on families – especially those who have children in a Stoke-on-Trent school, and other children in a neighbouring council school.

With this in mind, we are proposing to keep term times the same, unless neighbouring councils change their policy, or nationally there is further change.

We also felt that raising the educational attainment in our cities schools should take president over the upheaval of changing the current system at this time.

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