Pupils get longer half-term for cheaper family holidays

Children in Brighton are to get an extra week off school in term time to allow families to take cheaper holidays.

State schools in Brighton and Hove will introduce a two-week half-term in October, starting from 2017, and will adjust the start and finish dates of the autumn, spring and summer terms to ensure that children do not miss out on classroom time.

Other councils have mooted grouping together the five inset, or teacher training, days which take place each year, to provide an extra week.

Brighton council said that the break had been designed to give families more flexibility to go away outside the peak summer holiday period.

The council said that it was also responding to national guidelines to head teachers, introduced in 2013, which allowed them to grant absence to pupils only in exceptional circumstances.

“Modern families come in all shapes and sizes and the reduction in the discretion available to head teachers is damaging,” Tom Bewick, a Brighton councillor, told the BBC. “The introduction of a new week’s holiday in term time is a positive step and I hope addresses the behaviour of travel companies who whack up prices.”

The arrangement will be reviewed after a two-year trial. Last month Barnsley council became the first in England to try to shorten its schools’ summer break, cutting the holiday to less than five weeks.

It was planned that schools would stay open until the end of July and have a two-week autumn half-term.

However, the council backed down after complaints from head teachers. Families said that it would be of no help to those struggling to afford high- season getaways because the peak period had ended by the autumn half-term and the weather in foreign resorts was less attractive.

The council tried to justify the move by saying that the six-week summer break for schools led to “learning loss”.

Tim Cheetham, the council’s cabinet spokesman for education, said: “This will support educational outcomes for pupils by reducing the long summer break which can lead to learning loss. It also means that holiday weeks are distributed more evenly throughout the school year.”

He said that a wider consultation would take place this year on proposals for any future changes.

Parents who take their children out of school in term time without approval can be fined £60. However, this policy has been left in disarray by a High Court ruling in support of a parent who refused to pay the fine for taking his daughter out of school.

Some councils are no longer fining parents while others continue to take a hard stance.