Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Easter break irks

Easter can fall anywhere between 22 March and 25 April. With it falling this year on 16 April, just over 50 per cent of local authorities decided, very sensibly, to follow the six-term year recommendations, placing the February half-term in the middle of two six-week teaching blocks, with the Easter weekend at the end of the two-week break. This enabled another six-week teaching/learning block to follow before the late spring break.

However, the other 49 per cent decided that it would be better to put half-term a week later, making for a 7-6-5 week pattern.

The leader of the House of Commons, Geoff Hoon, was criticised by some MPs when they learned that the House had chosen to take its half-term at the same time as the less-than-50-per cent'ers.

The leader of the House, it is rumoured, thinks it's high time there was a national standard pattern. He's right.

But it should be framed first and foremost around the needs of learners, not MPs and, as most practitioners agree, evenly distributed term lengths facilitate better learning. This is what the six-term year set out to achieve. Sadly, we are still some way off that goal.

In 2008, Easter falls very early (23 March) and the indications are that the country is going to be split 'north-south' over the timing of the two-week spring break.

Even some areas like London, where there has previously been joint commitment among local authorities to follow the six-term school year principles, may choose different holiday patterns.

The issue is that Easter would stand alone as a bank holiday two weeks before the full spring break. Some local authorities and teacher representatives, mainly in the north, see this as too radical, although this will create very uneven term lengths.

The good news is that Easter won't fall quite so early again until 2016 and, in 2007 and 2009, the year comfortably accommodates the six-term pattern.

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