Council fails to show leadership on school holiday dates

I blogged elsewhere recently about how varying school holiday dates could slash the cost of holidays – often making the difference between whether or not families could afford to get away.

This is an issue I have also raised with Hammersmith and Fulham Council with the Director for Schools Ian Heggs:

Ian,
I gather that from September schools can set their own holiday dates – provided the total number of school days a year adds up to 195. So that should mean that some schools have slightly different dates allowing for parents to have much cheaper holidays.

In practice it doesn’t seem to have made much difference. For instance all the state schools in our borough seem to be planning half term the week starting October 26th. I can understand why. If a primary school changed the date there would be a difficulty if there was an elder sibling at a secondary school. Or a secondary school would be concerned about younger sibling at a primary school…

But what if in future years we recommended that all schools in the borough change to an alternative date from the majority in the rest of the country?

Obviously I’m not suggesting a change for the 2015/16 academic year. But what about the following academic year?

For example I think every local authority is proposing that in 2016 the autumn half term should be the week Oct 24th-28th. Why don’t we encourage all schools in Hammersmith and Fulham to have it the week starting October 17th?

Or the following summer half term everybody else will be proposing schools designate the week starting May 29th 2017. Why don’t we propose it the week starting June 5th? (When the weather might be slightly better anyway).

Please may I have your comments.

Best wishes,
Harry

Douglas Shaw, the Tri-Borough Deputy Head of School Admission, replies:

Dear Cllr Phibbs

Thank you for your recent enquiry regarding the setting of term dates. We consult the schools on the proposed term dates on an annual basis and the consultation for the 2016/17 academic year was circulated via LBHF School Zone on 1st July (and appeared in the RBKC/WCC circular/bulletin the same week). Suggested dates are put forward at the London Inter-Authority Admission Group (typically in March or April) and the majority of London authorities will use these dates.

I have attached the proposed dates for the 2016/17 academic year and so far the only comment I have received is that the common transition day might clash with Eid. We will also consider the comments you have made in your email prior to formally determining the dates. It is worth noting that for the last two academic years the Tri-borough Easter Break has been out-of-step with the adjoining authorities and we received several comments from Heads and parents to say they would like to see this rectified for future years, so that will be an important consideration when finalising the dates. The main concerns raised were where families had children attending schools in different boroughs (Brent and Ealing were the local authorities that were typically cited) resulting in siblings having a slightly different Easter break period. This made it harder for parents to arrange family holidays or resulted in parents having to take extended leave from work to cover child care.

Following the close of consultation, all comments will be considered and then the finalised dates will be circulated to schools in the first School Zone of the Autumn Term. Of course individual schools may still choose to deviate from the recommended dates and we will be collating a list of all schools that have opted to use different dates. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any further queries.

Kind regards,

Douglas Shaw

The Consultation notes that Mr Shaw attached said:

“The dates are drawn up using principles set by the Local Government Association:

  • As far as practicable dates should be as consistent as possible across all local authorities;
  • Equalise teaching and learning blocks;
  • Start the school year on a September date as near as possible to 1st September;
  • Establish a two-week spring break in early April irrespective of the incidence of the Easter bank holiday.”

The problem with that is the LGA principles are mad. They needlessly result in thousands of local children growing up in families that can’t afford to take them away on holiday.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council should break free from these dates – ideally with our tri-borough colleagues agreeing to the same alternative dates to avoid problems for families with children in different boroughs.

But thus far the council appears to be showing very little leadership on this issue.

One thought on “Council fails to show leadership on school holiday dates

  1. Many families have children not only at different schools but also in different boroughs – for example just for the secondary schools many parents living in LBHF have children at Gunnersbury & Gumley & Green School (Hounslow) or Holland Park and Cardinal Vaughan (RBKC) and there are many many more examples. Without detailed research this proposal could cause more problems than it solves. At least coordinating holiday dates ensures that all families are able to take a holiday together.

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