Primary lengthens school day to allow longer half-term breaks – and wins support from the NAHT
A headteachers’ leader has supported the idea of making the school day longer in order to give pupils more holiday – saying that schools need to take a creative approach to term times.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, backed Chiddingstone CofE primary school in Kent, which has lengthened its school day by 20 minutes to allow two extra weeks’ of holiday a year.
Back to first principles
Mr Hobby said: “I think it sounds like a really good idea and schools have to be a bit creative about how they schedule their terms across the year, going back to first principles seems a really good idea.”
Since January 2016, all year groups at Chiddingstone have begun the day 10 minutes earlier, at 8.45am, and ended 10 minutes later, at 3.30pm.
Headteacher Rachel Streatfeild said: “In consultation with parents and in response to parental feedback, the school has restructured its academic year. It has added an additional week onto the October and May half-terms enabling some parents to take advantage of cheaper holidays.
“We have added 20 minutes on to each school day. In addition, we have also commuted all our Inset days and staff training into a series of twilight sessions during the academic year to free up days to enable longer holidays.”
Mr Hobby acknowledged that a solution for one community might not work elsewhere and said that it was important for schools to consult with parents and other schools in their area when considering rearranging term times.
Figures out today show that 270,220 pupils skipped school during the autumn term last year to go on a family holiday that had not been agreed – a rise of 12 per cent compared with the same period in 2014.
And the government has vowed to crack down further on term-time holidays after the High Court ruled in favour of a father who took his daughter on holiday during term-time without permission.
But Mr Hobby said: “Relying on fines is not working, we need to address the root problem of hugely expensive holidays in school holidays. I don’t like the idea of people taking children out of school for holidays.
“But it is difficult when you are balancing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with a perfect attendance record. I prefer the message from government to be that term time is for school and holidays are for holidays, but heads can get more creative about when term time is.”